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Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.)

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) has been a leading proponent of extending the Medicare system to all Americans—a proposal that's gained popularity among the public in recent years as well as traction in Washington, D.C. (Photo: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

'Absurdity and Cruelty' of US Healthcare System, Says Sanders, 'Should Now Be Apparent to All'

As the country faces the coronavirus pandemic and an economic crisis, the senator explains the "need to articulate a new direction for America."

Jessica Corbett

Former Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders took to the opinion section of the New York Times on Sunday to make the case that in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic and an economic meltdown, "it's imperative that we re-examine some of the foundations of American society, understand why they are failing us, and fight for a fairer and more just nation."

"If there is any silver lining in the horrible pandemic and economic collapse we're experiencing," wrote the Independent senator from Vermont, "it is that many in our country are now beginning to rethink the basic assumptions underlying the American value system."

A longtime advocate of transitioning the United States to a universal, single-payer healthcare system, Sanders declared Sunday, "The absurdity and cruelty of our employer-based, private health insurance system should now be apparent to all."

The ongoing public health crisis has led to soaring rates of unemployment, and those layoffs have often meant workers also lose their employer-based health insurance. Noting the recent job losses, Sanders argued that "as we move forward beyond the pandemic, we need to pass legislation that finally guarantees healthcare to every man, woman, and child—available to people employed or unemployed, at every age."

Sanders has spent years fighting for Medicare for All legislation in Congress and the proposal was a key piece of his platforms both times he ran for president.

"In the course of my presidential campaign, I sought to follow in the footsteps of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who, in the 1930s and 40s, understood that in a truly free society, economic rights must be considered human rights," the senator explained. "That was true 80 years ago and it remains true today."

Earlier this month, as states were deciding to delay in-person primary voting because of the pandemic, Sanders announced that he was suspending his campaign but vowed to continue advocating for progressive policies. That move made former Vice President Joe Biden the party's presumptive nominee to face off against President Donald Trump in November. Within days, Sanders formally endorsed Biden.

On the Democrats' effort to make Trump a one-term president, Sanders wrote Sunday:

Now I will do everything in my power to bring this country together to help Joe Biden defeat the most dangerous president in modern American history. And I will continue to make the vigorous case that we must address the inequalities that contributed to the rise of Donald Trump, whose cruelty and incompetence have cost American lives during this pandemic.

Simply opposing Mr. Trump will not be enough—we will need to articulate a new direction for America.

Specifically, Sanders called for ending "starvation wages" and guaranteeing decent-paying jobs to those who can work; ensuring all Americans receive a quality education from childcare through graduate school; and "a massive construction program that ends homelessness and allows all of our people to live in safe and affordable housing."

"We must make certain that our communities are free of pollution in our air and water, and that we lead the world in combating the existential threat of climate change," Sanders added. "We must love and respect our elders, and make certain that all Americans have a secure and dignified retirement."

Dismissing persistent comments from politicians and pundits about the difficulty of forcing fundamental changes, he concluded: "Let's get to work and get it done."

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