In a bid to "revolutionize" American healthcare by transitioning away from the for-profit status quo to a Medicare for All system that guarantees insurance to every American as a right, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) on Wednesday will introduce his long-awaited single-payer bill that is now backed by 15 Democratic senators and a wave of grassroots enthusiasm.
"Today's bill introduction is the crest of a wave, but it's also a new beginning"
—RoseAnn DeMoro, National Nurses United
"This is where the country has got to go," Sanders told the Washington Post on Tuesday. "Right now, if we want to move away from a dysfunctional, wasteful, bureaucratic system into a rational healthcare system that guarantees coverage to everyone in a cost-effective way, the only way to do it is Medicare for All."
Post reporter Dave Weigel got an early look at the legislation—which will be introduced at 2pm at an event in Washington—and summarized it as a total replacement of the current healthcare system with "a public system that would be paid for by higher taxes."
Everything from emergency surgery to prescription drugs, from mental health to eye care, would be covered, with no co-payments. Americans under 18 would immediately obtain "universal Medicare cards," while Americans not currently eligible for Medicare would be phased into the program over four years. Employer-provided health care would be replaced, with the employers paying higher taxes but no longer on the hook for insurance.
In a video on Wednesday, Sanders contrasted his legislation with the Republicans' failed plan, which could have stripped health insurance from more than 30 million Americans.
I'm very proud to be introducing the Medicare for All Act today, which has 15 co-sponsors in the Senate, a record level of support. pic.twitter.com/26GimpDJoC
— Bernie Sanders (@SenSanders) September 13, 2017
As Common Dreams reported on Monday, Sanders and his allies have emphasized that introduction of the Medicare for All Act of 2017 is only the beginning of a long struggle against "the insurance companies, the drug companies, Wall Street, and all those who make billions in profit" from the current system.
But opponents of Medicare for All "are on the wrong side of history," Sanders wrote in an op-ed for the New York Times on Wednesday.
"We need to destroy once and for all the utterly preposterous myth that the so-called 'free market' will ever be capable of delivering the health system we need."
—Richard Master, Business Initiative for Health Policy
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"Now is the time for Congress to stand with the American people and take on the special interests that dominate healthcare in the United States," Sanders concluded. "Now is the time to extend Medicare to everyone."
Many in the business community agree.
In a statement ahead of Sanders' announcement on Wednesday, David Levine, CEO and co-founder of the American Sustainable Business Council, said a single-payer system would "be better for our economy overall."
Business Initiative for Health Policy founder Richard Master, who will speak at the event introducing the Medicare for All Act of 2017, echoed Levine, arguing: "We need to destroy once and for all the utterly preposterous myth that the so-called 'free market' will ever be capable of delivering the health system we need."
Commentators in recent days have expressed astonishment at the speed with which public and Democratic Party opinion has shifted on single payer. Vox's Dylan Matthews called Democrats' growing support for Medicare for All "stunning," and the Washington Post's Aaron Blake likened single payer's rapid surge in popularity to a dam finally breaking.
Writing for Common Dreams on Wednesday, RoseAnn DeMoro, executive director of National Nurses United (NNU), argued that this "seismic shift" in opinion is a "direct product of how Sanders made Medicare for All, and healthcare as a human right, such a signature issue of his [2016 presidential] campaign."
It is also a result of "the enduring work of nurses and other healthcare activists over many years," which has "laid the seeds for this day," DeMoro wrote.
"Today's bill introduction is the crest of a wave, but it's also a new beginning," DeMoro concluded. "Nurses will continue to press this issue, calling on all senators to sign on, and to challenge those who will stand in the way of enacting the healthcare system we need."