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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: 66646

Reported Deaths: 1874
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Hinds5599118
DeSoto363230
Harrison249836
Madison241464
Rankin227633
Jackson226942
Jones188558
Forrest177856
Washington164641
Lee142839
Lauderdale140792
Neshoba128592
Lamar120214
Oktibbeha111838
Bolivar110834
Warren108932
Lowndes107437
Panola105412
Sunflower102425
Scott99820
Lafayette96416
Copiah95028
Pike92836
Leflore92562
Holmes89048
Grenada84321
Yazoo82912
Pontotoc8218
Lincoln80941
Simpson79530
Leake78625
Monroe77853
Wayne76421
Coahoma74312
Tate72028
Marshall6889
Marion65720
Union62716
Winston62016
Adams61725
Covington61213
George5595
Newton54211
Pearl River54038
Tallahatchie53010
Attala52125
Walthall49819
Chickasaw45920
Noxubee45311
Alcorn4195
Calhoun4179
Prentiss41710
Tishomingo4095
Claiborne40413
Smith40413
Clay39413
Hancock38814
Jasper3879
Tippah36013
Itawamba35810
Tunica3337
Clarke32625
Montgomery3213
Lawrence3197
Yalobusha31310
Humphreys29111
Quitman2621
Carroll26111
Greene24111
Kemper23214
Perry2327
Jefferson Davis2316
Amite2306
Webster22812
Wilkinson20513
Sharkey1975
Jefferson1957
Stone1944
Benton1431
Choctaw1334
Franklin1242
Issaquena261
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Confirmed Cases: 94827

Reported Deaths: 1674
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Jefferson12969243
Mobile9836206
Montgomery6609148
Madison531433
Tuscaloosa419073
Unassigned356061
Baldwin350224
Shelby326035
Marshall313035
Lee266045
Morgan236918
Etowah210431
DeKalb179813
Calhoun176113
Elmore171538
Walker152064
Houston138612
Russell13582
St. Clair132817
Dallas131823
Limestone131813
Franklin127020
Cullman122012
Colbert117113
Lauderdale115717
Autauga108621
Escambia107516
Talladega100913
Jackson9684
Tallapoosa85479
Chambers84038
Dale82723
Blount7884
Chilton7886
Butler75836
Coffee7566
Covington73420
Pike7037
Clarke6629
Barbour5735
Lowndes57124
Marion57024
Marengo55315
Hale47326
Bullock46311
Winston45011
Perry4404
Bibb4265
Wilcox42610
Monroe4194
Randolph39610
Pickens3929
Conecuh38810
Washington38612
Sumter36018
Lawrence3481
Macon33414
Crenshaw3143
Choctaw28112
Cherokee2707
Henry2593
Geneva2570
Clay2525
Greene25011
Lamar2202
Fayette2045
Cleburne1261
Coosa1012
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