Back in late January, 2016, Sen. Bernie Sanders’ (I-Vt.) “Medicare for All” plan seemed so out there, CBS News reported his then-rival Hillary Clinton assured Iowa voters in Des Moines she’d focus on fighting for the Affordable Care Act (ACA), not a single-payer healthcare system that will “never, ever come to pass.”
In U.S. politics, Iowa has long been seen as a bellwether for the national mood. And sure enough, local supporter Derry O’Connor told CBS News he’d caucus for Hillary Clinton in part because he agrees with her on healthcare. “I think if they ever got there, it would be very good,” he explained. “I don’t see it happening. Look what happened when they tried to expand Medicaid to all the states in the country.” At the time, the Democratic-Socialist senator from Vermont came across to many voters as an impractical, wild-haired idealist.
Fast forward 20 months later and we’ve got Business Insider reporting, “Bernie Sanders is getting some serious support in his push to reform the U.S. healthcare system.” On Wednesday, he plans to introduce his Medicare-for-all bill in the Senate. His plan would take Obamacare to a higher level by offering Medicare — now offered only to people over age 65 — to all Americans. Medicare’s not perfect, but it’s a highly popular program offering what’s widely seen as high-quality healthcare for reasonable rates.
Top Democrats jumping on board the Bernie Sanders’ “Medicare for All” train include Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.), and Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), and now — according to the NY Daily News — Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.).
So what’s going on here? For starters, the idea of the kind of government-run healthcare system Bernie Sanders proposes is gaining in popularity. In June, a Pew Research Poll had 60 percent of American voters saying the U.S. government should ensure that all of us have health coverage. Billionaire investor Warren Buffett and — as reported by the Inquisitr in August — California hedge funder Tom Steyer, former vice president Al Gore, and former president Jimmy Carter have also come out in favor of single-payer.
Aaron Blake from the Washington Post mentions these top Democrats are on his short list for a 2020 presidential run. “What do those four senators have in common?” he asks rhetorically. “Well, they just happen to constitute four of the eight most likely 2020 Democratic presidential nominees, according to the handy list I put out Friday.” Blake ventures, “That four of the first five to come out in support of Sanders’s bill all came from a relatively small universe of top presidential hopefuls suggests that this will be a litmus test issue in 2020.” He then adds, “And any hopeful that doesn’t support it is going to stand out like a sore thumb.”
Bernie Sanders, on the other hand, has been pro-“Medicare for All” since at least the 1990s. Here he is on C-Span sounding much as he does today.
Now that House and Senate Republicans have a real possibility of repealing Obamacare, an August poll by the Kaiser Family Foundation shows Obamacare has never been more popular. 52 percent of Americans feel favorably towards it — up 20 points since the ACA’s low point in November 2013 — just 39 percent view it unfavorably, and 8 percent don’t know.
Yet for many, as pointed out by CNN Money Watch, the problem isn’t having more affordable access to healthcare, it’s that — even with Obamacare’s protections — their coverage isn’t at all affordable. 85 percent of those with Obamacare get help from subsidies. “But,” the article explains, “For many middle-class Americans — a single person earning more than $47,520 or a family of four with an income of $97,200 — the pricey premiums and deductibles mean health care coverage remains out of reach.” Meanwhile, Bernie Sanders’ “Medicare for All” would save money and guarantee universal coverage.
Larry Levitt, senior vice president at the Kaiser Family Foundation explains part of the problem is that healthcare in the U.S. is extremely expensive. In fact, Americans spend more per capita on healthcare than people in other developed nations.
Yet despite the high costs, our outcomes are among the worst in the developed world.
This may have something to do with the fact that among Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) nations, only the U.S. has an almost entirely privatized healthcare system run mostly by for-profit companies. In 2014, Physicians for a National Health Plan (PNHP) circulated a chart via Twitter with the total compensation for health insurance company CEOs in 2013. They also included a link to an article with more details.
The bill is unlikely to pass given that Republicans control both houses of Congress. Still, Bernie Sanders’ “Medicare-for-All” plan is gathering steam in the U.S. Senate. Meanwhile, the majority of House Democrats signed on to Rep. John Conyers’ (D-Mich.) H.R. 676 Expanded & Improved Medicare For All Act back in January.
Here’s a video with Newsy‘s report on Bernie Sanders’ healthcare plan.
[Featured image by Win McNamee/Getty Images]