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Tuesday, 10 May 2011 03:40

Single-Payer, Medicare-for-All Legislation Introduced in Senate and House: Bernie Sanders and Jim McDermott

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BUZZFLASH/TRUTHOUT NEWS ALERT

Following on the passage of a single-payer healthcare system in Vermont (awaiting the governor's signature), Bernie Sanders and Jim McDermott issued a news release announcing their Medicare-for-All bill:

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) announced today that he introduced legislation to provide health care for every American through a Medicare-for-all type single-payer system.

Rep. Jim McDermott (D-Wash.) filed a companion bill in the House to provide better care for more patients at less cost by eliminating the middle-man role played by private insurance companies that rake off billions of dollars in profits.

The twin measures, both called the American Health Security Act of 2011, would provide federal guidelines and strong minimum standards for states to administer single-payer health care programs.

"The United States is the only major nation in the industrialized world that does not guarantee health care as right to its people," Sanders said at a press conference on Capitol Hill. "Meanwhile, we spend about twice as much per capita on health care with worse results than others that spend far less. It is time that we bring about a fundamental transformation of the American health care system. It is time for us to end private, for-profit participation in delivering basic coverage. It is time for the United States to provide a Medicare-for-all single-payer health coverage program."

McDermott said, "The new health care law made big progress towards covering many more people and finding ways to lower cost. However, I think the best way to reduce costs and guarantee coverage for all is through a Single-payer system like Medicare. This bill does just that - it builds on the new health care law by giving states the flexibility they need to go to a single-payer system of their own. It will also reduce costs, and Americans will be healthier."

Sanders and McDermott were joined at the press conference by leaders of organizations supporting the measure, including Arlene Baker-Holt, executive vice president of the AFL-CIO; Jean Ross, co-president of the National Nurses United; and Greg Junemann, president of the International Federation of Professional and Technical Engineers.

While making the case for a single-payer system nationwide, Sanders applauded the Vermont Legislature which earlier this month voted to put the state on the path toward a single-payer system. Vermont, Sanders said, could become a model for the nation.

Last year's health reform law is projected to cover 32 million more Americans. Despite that important step forward, however, 23 million people living in the United States will remain uninsured by the end of this decade while health care costs continue to skyrocket. Some 60 million Americans, both insured and uninsured, have inadequate access to primary care due to a shortage of physicians and other like providers in their community.

Under the current health care system, 45,000 Americans a year die because they delay seeking care they cannot afford.  Health care eats up one-fifth of the U.S. economy, but we rank 26th among major, developed nations on life expectancy and 31st on infant mortality.

Drug companies charge Americans twice as much or more for the exact same drugs manufactured by the exact same companies than citizens of Canada or Europe. Some insurers that gouge policy holders spend 40 cents of every premium dollar on administration and profits while lavishing multimillion dollar payouts on their CEOs.

"This is unacceptable," Sanders said. "Until we put patients over profits, our system will not work for ordinary Americans."