Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) may be leading the pack of progressive potential options for the 2020 Democratic nomination, but he’s not sitting back and allowing others to get a leg up by suppoting vast new government expansions, like the Green New Deal.
On Wednesday, Sanders introduced a “revamped” version of his Medicare-for-All plan, which would completely replace private insurance in the United States with a single, public option — though this iteration of the plan is more comprehensive than previous versions, covering more, and expanding long-term care coverage to satisfy Baby Boomer voters.
CNN reports that Sanders unveiled the bill with a sweeping speech likening the quest for “affordable health care” to unionization of the workforce in the early 20th century and the Civil Rights movement.
“We are involved in a great struggle not unlike, to be honest with you, the struggles of the labor movement, the struggles of the civil rights movement, the struggles of the women’s movement, the struggles of the gay community, the struggles of the environmental movement,” Sanders said. “This is what we’re about.”
The plan creates a federal universal health care program that completely supplants any private insurance (though that isn’t immediately clear from Sanders’ rhetoric, which conveniently never mentions that people who like their coverage won’t keep their coverage). The system would cover “medically necessary” services and basic dental and vision services, as well as some prescription drugs. If you want name brand medication, you’ll have to pay $200.
“Insurers would only be allowed to provide services not covered by the universal plan, such as cosmetic surgery,” according to CNN.
In this plan, unlike previous plans, long-term care, including nursing care, is covered. The change seems tailor-made to attract older individuals, who might be used to a more comprehensive health care plan, into the Sanders’ fold.
A few 2020 hopefuls, like Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) are on board with Sanders’ plan and support the move to universal health care. Others, like Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ), expressed skepticism, noting that there’s no way a full overhaul of the existing health care system would pass a divided Congress, and a president might be better off seeking out bipartisan agreement on ways to make health care more affordable.
Few other 2020 candidates have spoken on the issue, and that’s likely because it’s probably not a winning proposal with most Americans. Slate, hardly a right-leaning outlet, reported last year that while Sanders’ has touted a poll that shows 70% approval for his Medicare-for-All plan, sentiment among voters changes when the question is restated to indicate that “Medicare-for-All” would be in place of their current private insurance.
“According to [health care company] Kaiser, support for Medicare for all drops to 37 percent if survey takers are told that the bill would eliminate private insurance companies, with 58 percent opposed,” Slate reported.
The “70%” — or, actually “73%” — is really support for a “public option” for health insurance, something that the Affordable Care Act tried to create, and that some 2020 Democratic candidates are proposing. But those same supporters of Medicare-for-All were skittish when asked whether they’d be willing to pay more in taxes to give their fellow Americans a health care safety net.
A whopping 60% said they’d oppose the measure if it meant they’d “feel the Bern.”
But Sanders is nothing if not consistent. He says he and the bill’s co-sponsors will present the plan officially in the coming days. In order to vote on it, Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) will have to bring the bill to the floor for a vote. That is, of course, unlikely.