Bernie Sanders unveils more ambitious new Medicare for All plan

Undaunted by skepticism over the political viability of "Medicare for All," Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders on Wednesday unveiled a new and more sweeping version...

Posted: Apr 10, 2019 1:35 PM

Undaunted by skepticism over the political viability of "Medicare for All," Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders on Wednesday unveiled a new and more sweeping version of his signature health care bill.

Sanders is introducing the revamped proposal in the midst of a charged political moment, as the presidential primary heats up and the Trump administration makes a fresh push to topple Obamacare in the courts. But even as they circle the wagons around the current law, Democrats are eyeing the future -- and the prospects of enacting a single-payer system that would fundamentally re-order American life well beyond doctors' offices and emergency rooms.

The decision to move forward now is also expected to stoke a more pointed debate on the 2020 presidential primary circuit, where top contenders -- including Sens. Kamala Harris, Elizabeth Warren, Kirsten Gillibrand and Cory Booker, who all cosponsored the Medicare for All bill -- are being faced with a high stakes new question over the role of private insurance companies. Sanders, through this legislation, is determined to put the industry out of business. The other four, and a raft more who do not support the bill, have all said the private insurers are either inescapable or, as many moderates argue, vital cogs in America's health care system.

At a Wendesday morning event on Capitol Hill, Sanders cast the movement supporting the legislation in historical terms.

"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."

Asked earlier if Sanders -- an independent who caucuses with the Democrats and is again seeking their party's nomination -- is priming for a showdown with his 2020 opponents, including the bill's candidate-cosponsors, campaign manager Faiz Shakir laid down a marker.

"Whether it's a fight that he's going to have with them is up to them," Shakir said. "This is a core pillar of why (Sanders) is running for president, a core pillar of what he would do as president. It's up to other people to determine for themselves whether and how much, how core it is for them. I will let other people decide for themselves how they'll go about it."

Much like Sanders has on the stump, Shakir predicted a sharp and expensive fight with private insurance interests to come.

"You aren't going to upend that system easily," he said. "So there's going to be a bunch of lobbying groups out there (spending) hundreds of millions of dollars and you can be damn sure that they're going to decide that an advertising campaign against Bernie Sanders is a worthwhile expenditure for them -- rather than providing health care coverage for people."

At the Wednesday rally in Washington, Gillibrand, the only cosponsor in attendance, said that universal, government-guaranteed coverage needs "to become the next social safety net, to become something that is there for you no matter what."

The New York senator, who has supported single-payer for more than a decade and wrote the Sanders legislation's four-year transition plan, said the path to building support for the bill could be greased by allowing Americans to first buy-in to a government-run public option -- a move, she argued, that would ultimately wipe out the private insurance industry.

"I dare any insurance company to just try to compete. They won't," Gillibrand said. "The insurance industry wants to make money. They are a for-profit industry. Their goals are not aligned with ours."

Booker, who was not at the rally, also discussed the bill -- and the roadblocks facing it in Congress -- during a New York radio interview.

"I think the best way to do (reach full coverage) would be to design a Medicare for All system," he said. "But anybody who says those words, 'Medicare for All,' who's running for president, the next thing out of their mouth should be talking to people about, in a split Congress, what are you going to actually do in your first year to make healthcare more accessible and affordable?"

Sanders, who did not take questions from reporters on Wednesday, has expressed reservations about blowing up the Senate filibuster, which requires at least 60 votes to pass most legislation. He has not discussed in detail his plan for moving it through a Senate in which Democrats lack that 60-vote supermajority. In a divided Congress, the legislation would likely be dead on arrival.

Soon after Sanders' announcement, White House press secretary Sarah Sanders offered another preview of the pushback awaiting Democratic candidates who back Medicare for All.

"Democrats just announced their government takeover of healthcare plan," she tweeted, claiming the plan "confiscates every American's private health insurance."

In addition to Sanders, Gillibrand and the other three presidential hopefuls, the bill's cosponsors also include Sens. Tammy Baldwin, Richard Blumenthal, Patrick Leahy, Mazie Hirono, Ed Markey, Jeff Merkley, Brian Schatz, Tom Udall, Sheldon Whitehouse and Martin Heinrich. A number of them, like the five candidates, have also signed on to less radical bills, some of which would create a Medicare buy-in system or expand previously existing programs.

The 2019 legislation would go further than Sanders' previous plans by covering more long-term care services, bringing it closer in line with a broader House version sponsored by Washington Democratic Rep. Pramila Jayapal. Nursing home and other institutional coverage would still fall to Medicaid under the new bill, as it had before, while long-term care at home and in the community would be expanded.

Apart from its new measures to cover long-term care, much of Sanders' proposal remains the same as what he introduced in 2017. He wants to create a federal universal health insurance program that would cover medically necessary services, prescription drugs, dental and vision services. Premiums, deductibles and co-pays would disappear, except for a potential $200 co-pay for brand-name drugs.

Though many of his rivals have said they would maintain a role for private insurance, Sanders' bill would effectively eliminate the industry. Insurers would only be allowed to provide services not covered by the universal plan, such as cosmetic surgery.

As for how to foot the bill, Sanders describes a litany of ways Americans are already spending billions on health care, particularly because of high administrative costs, executive pay packages and prescription drug prices. He maintains that Medicare for All, despite its cost, would save many people money.

The new legislation also lists several ways to raise additional funds, including levying premiums on workers and employers; boosting income and estate tax rates; and establishing a wealth tax.

The decision to extend coverage for home- and community-based long-term care was predicated on a need to help the elderly and the disabled, while extending care to rural communities, Shakir told CNN.

"It's a really critical part of whether you're going to be able to sustain life (among the elderly)," he said. "Home care means so much to the disability community because it is literally liberty and freedom to be able to still run their own lives and not be committed to institutions or have to travel far distances to get basic care."

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 115088

Reported Deaths: 3255
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Hinds7973177
DeSoto703979
Harrison522384
Jackson457884
Rankin394086
Madison383194
Lee357380
Forrest304678
Jones292484
Washington258399
Lafayette250443
Lauderdale2478135
Lamar225538
Oktibbeha202454
Bolivar201677
Neshoba1849111
Lowndes179962
Panola170040
Leflore167187
Sunflower162349
Warren154855
Monroe150673
Pontotoc147220
Marshall143129
Lincoln140157
Pike138456
Copiah137536
Scott125429
Coahoma124937
Grenada122638
Yazoo122234
Simpson121549
Union118825
Tate116839
Leake115041
Holmes114760
Itawamba113925
Pearl River113660
Adams108544
Prentiss106120
Wayne101722
Alcorn100112
George99218
Covington97527
Marion95042
Tippah90322
Newton86627
Chickasaw85526
Tallahatchie84526
Winston84121
Hancock84028
Tishomingo81241
Attala79426
Clarke75851
Clay69321
Jasper68717
Walthall63927
Calhoun62612
Noxubee59817
Smith59416
Montgomery54923
Yalobusha54514
Claiborne53716
Tunica53517
Lawrence51814
Perry49423
Carroll49312
Greene47818
Stone47514
Humphreys43816
Amite42513
Quitman4206
Jefferson Davis41011
Webster37613
Benton3416
Wilkinson33820
Kemper32615
Sharkey28514
Jefferson27610
Franklin2423
Choctaw2086
Issaquena1074
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Confirmed Cases: 155915

Reported Deaths: 2674
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Jefferson23129377
Mobile16849315
Tuscaloosa10296140
Montgomery10197197
Madison928096
Shelby733863
Baldwin663769
Lee653465
Calhoun456761
Marshall438150
Etowah426551
Houston414834
Morgan412035
DeKalb338829
Elmore320053
St. Clair292542
Limestone284230
Walker277292
Talladega265335
Cullman244024
Lauderdale226242
Jackson214915
Franklin205231
Autauga204831
Colbert200532
Russell19443
Blount192525
Chilton186932
Dallas186527
Coffee176311
Dale175151
Covington174029
Escambia172530
Chambers135044
Clarke134317
Pike133513
Tallapoosa131787
Marion107629
Barbour10319
Marengo100822
Butler100740
Winston92213
Geneva9007
Lawrence85032
Pickens84718
Bibb82814
Randolph82316
Hale76730
Washington74412
Clay74112
Cherokee73314
Lowndes70928
Henry7086
Bullock64817
Monroe64610
Crenshaw60630
Perry5896
Fayette57413
Wilcox56712
Conecuh56113
Cleburne5568
Macon53420
Lamar4905
Sumter47221
Choctaw39012
Greene34216
Coosa2033
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