Legislation that would authorize grants for states to create universal health care pilot programs that could become models for other states and the nation was introduced in the Senate and House of Representatives. "The quickest route toward a national health care program will be when individual states go forward and demonstrate that universal and non-profit health care works, and that it is the cost-effective and moral thing to do," said Senator Bernie Sanders, who introduced the Senate bill. "It is my hope and expectation that Vermont will help lead the nation in that direction."
"The best solution to America's health care crisis may not come from Washington, D.C., at all, but rather from the creative ideas of our state and local business and community leaders," added Congressman John F. Tierney of Massachusetts, who introduced companion legislation in the House. "As more and more states take matters into their own hands, it is evident that this legislation is needed now more than ever."
Under the current broken health care system in the United States, 47 million Americans have no health insurance, and even more are underinsured. Health care costs are soaring, and Americans pay, by far, the highest prices in the world for prescription drugs.
"The gross inadequacy of the American health care system is a moral disgrace," said Sanders, a member of the Senate health committee. "Today, we are the only nation in the industrialized world that does not guarantee health care to all. Meanwhile, we have the most costly, inefficient and wasteful system in the world -- spending some 31 percent of our health care dollars in administration. We can do better. We must do better."
The legislation proposed by Sanders and Tierney would authorize grants to states to develop plans for universal, comprehensive, cost-effective health care. Five states selected for the pilot program would win additional grants to carry out 5-year demonstration projects. The states would have to provide comprehensive health care benefits, including coverage for long-term care, diagnostic services, preventive care, prescription drugs, dental and vision services, and mental health and substance abuse treatment services.
Patients who otherwise would have received health care through a federal program would be guaranteed benefits at least as generous in terms of coverage, access and availability. They also would be protected from additional out-of-pocket expenses. The bill also would establish a Universal Health Care Coverage Commission made up of state and federal officials to evaluate state plans and report to Congress on their effectiveness.
A leader on health care throughout his career in Congress, Sanders also is working to expand primary health and dental care access through the support and expansion of community health centers known as Federally Qualified Health Centers. He also fought to include in a Senate-passed higher education bill a provision that would increase the number of graduates from nursing schools and make it easier for young people to afford medical and dental school.
He also has championed prescription drug re-importation legislation that will allow pharmacists and individuals to pay the same price for prescription drugs as people in Canada and Europe. And he has worked in the Veterans Affairs Committee on legislation that will provide the largest increase in funding for veterans health care in recent history.
For a copy of Sanders universal health care bill, click here.
For background information on the legislation, click here.