Sen. Bernie Sanders's presidential campaign on Wednesday emphatically pushed back against a Washington Post story that reported the senator made a "change" to his Medicare for All plan due to criticism from organized labor, a charge one Sanders adviser described as "bullshit."
"This headline from the Wash Post is 100 percent wrong—know how I know? Medicare for All is a Senate bill with exact text and co-sponsors. The text hasn't changed."
—Josh Orton, national policy director for Sen. Bernie Sanders
The Post story came hours after Sanders unveiled his comprehensive labor platform, which includes a clause that states: "Unions will still be able to negotiate for and provide wrap-around services and other coverage not duplicative of the benefits established under Medicare for All."
The Post characterized the sentence—which was plucked out of a section in Sanders's labor platform titled "A fair transition to Medicare for All"—as a "departure" and a "seeming acknowledgment of a role for private coverage by a campaign that has railed against others for not taking a hard-enough stance against such plans."
The Sanders campaign immediately and strongly rejected that description, saying the senator's Medicare for All plan has not changed and does not leave the door open for private insurance.
"Bernie's Medicare for All bill was introduced in April and hasn't changed," tweeted Warren Gunnels, a senior adviser to Sanders.
Josh Orton, Sanders's national policy director, said the Post story "is factually wrong throughout."
"It's just false that M4A changed," Orton tweeted. "It's policy-illiterate."
This headline from the Wash Post is 100% wrong - know how I know? Medicare for All is a Senate bill with exact text and co-sponsors. The text hasn’t changed.
Today Bernie introduces a labor proposal that provides additional value to worker contracts. https://t.co/xAh0su43Pn
— Josh Orton (@joshorton) August 22, 2019
Medicare for All Senate bill stays same
Bernie releases an aggressively pro-union platform that includes sectoral bargaining (!!) a right for federal workers to strike, and a provision to direct employer health savings to benefit worker contracts.
WaPo: M4A changed. https://t.co/gWQS1VgTq8
— Josh Orton (@joshorton) August 22, 2019
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Sanders's labor platform states that "if Medicare for All is signed into law, companies with union negotiated healthcare plans would be required to enter into new contract negotiations overseen by the National Labor Relations Board."
"Under this plan," the document continues, "all company savings that result from reduced healthcare contributions from Medicare for All will accrue equitably to workers in the form of increased wages or other benefits."
Vox's Tara Golshan described the line as an effort to address "concern about Medicare for All" from some in the labor movement who have expressed fears that Sanders's plan would nullify unions' hard-won bargaining gains. David Sirota, Sanders' speechwriter, called Vox's characterization "fair and accurate."
Gunnels said the provision in Sanders's labor platform requiring that company healthcare savings from Medicare for All go toward increasing workers' wages and other benefits does not represent a "departure" from Sanders' Medicare for All plan, as the Post reporting alleged.
"We've said from day one that any savings employers gain from Medicare for All must be passed on to union workers in the form of higher wages and benefits," Gunnels tweeted. "We know that because Bernie wrote the damn bill."
Bernie's #MedicareForAll bill was introduced in April & hasn't been changed. We've said from day 1 that any savings employers gain from #MedicareForAll must be passed on to union workers in the form of higher wages and benefits. We know that because Bernie wrote the damn bill. https://t.co/TXvid6BIwN
— Warren Gunnels (@GunnelsWarren) August 22, 2019
Ben Beckett, a union steward in New York City, wrote in Jacobin on Wednesday that the Medicare for All plank of Sanders's labor platform would "be an enormous boon to all unionized workers."
"To be clear, my union has negotiated a good healthcare plan with premium costs significantly below average, especially for family plans," wrote Beckett. "But with Medicare for All, Sanders is offering to take an enormous burden off our shoulders."
As Common Dreams reported earlier this month, leaders of major unions made similar points in response to attacks on Medicare for All by centrist Democratic presidential candidates like former Vice President Joe Biden and former Rep. John Delaney (D-Md.).
Sara Nelson, president of the Association of Flight Attendants, called healthcare negotiations with employers "a huge drag on our bargaining" in an interview with Politico.
"So our message is: Get it off the table," said Nelson, who joined the Sanders campaign in disputing the Post story on Wednesday.
National Nurses United (NNU), America's largest nurses union, tweeted last month that "Medicare for All would put money back into union members' pockets in the form of wages and other benefits."
"That's why major unions representing millions of workers in the U.S. are in this fight," said NNU.