September 13, 2017

Today, Bernie Sanders and 17 Senate Democrats are rolling out a proposal for Medicare for All. Sanders introduced the bill in the Senate along with Sens. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Al Franken (D-Minn.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.), Mazie Hirono (Hawaii), Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Edward Markey (D-Mass.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii), Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), Tom Udall (D-N.M.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.).

After the "repeal and replace" debacle in July, Sanders and the Democratic Senators decided to offer an alternative which would guarantee healthcare for all.

“Today, we begin the long and difficult struggle to end the international embarrassment of the United States being the only major country on earth not to guarantee health care to all its people,” Sanders said. “At a time when millions of Americans do not have access to affordable health care, the Republicans, funded by the Koch brothers, are trying to take away health care from up to 32 million more. We have a better idea: guarantee health care to all people as a right, not a privilege, through a Medicare-for-all, single-payer health care program.”

Now that it has been introduced, the plan is to take this proposal to all 50 states and hear from the people most affected as well as providers, caregivers and others.

Here are some of the highlights:

  1. Requires coverage for :
    • Hospital services, including emergency services and inpatient drugs;
    • Ambulatory patient services;
    • Primary and preventive services, including disease management;
    • Prescription drugs, medical devices, and biological products;
    • Mental health and substance abuse treatment services, including inpatient care;
    • Laboratory and diagnostic services;
    • Comprehensive reproductive, maternity, and newborn care;
    • Pediatrics; oral health, vision, and audiology;
    • Rehabilitative and habilitative services and devices
  2. Out-of-pocket spending for medical benefits, which includes deductibles, coinsurance, and copayments would be eliminated.
  3. Long-term care coverage for seniors and people with disabilities will continue as it is currently covered under Medicaid, complete with a maintenance of effort provision; no one receiving benefits through Medicaid or any other federal or state health program will lose support.

There are provisions for negotiating with drug companies and providers as well.

Proposals for financing include a 7.5 percent employer-paid payroll tax and a 4 percent individual tax, cost reductions due to negotiated prices, higher taxes on the wealthy, taxing capital gains on sales at the same rate as earned income, closing the S-Corporation loophole, and more.

In all respects, this proposal is a gauntlet at the feet of the Kochs and other oligarchs in the United States.

So. Let the debate now begin in earnest, and let it begin ahead of the midterms. After the disastrous "repeal and replace" effort failed spectacularly, it is time for us to put our boldest and best ideas out there for national debate.

But this time, we cannot let the right wing fear monger the debate. No scary music and stupid ads. It will be on us, the people, to make sure this isn't another exercise in John Birch fear tactics.

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