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Sanders, Khanna Say SCOTUS Ruling on Contraceptives Just One More Reason to Demand Medicare for All

"This wouldn't even be an issue if healthcare wasn't tied to employment."

Medicare for All advocates on Wednesday noted that the U.S. Supreme Court's decision to allow employers to refuse to cover contraceptives presented a clear argument in favor of a universal healthcare system under which employment would not be tied to healthcare. (Photo: NNU/flickr/cc)</span></p>

Medicare for All advocates on Wednesday noted that the U.S. Supreme Court's decision to allow employers to refuse to cover contraceptives presented a clear argument in favor of a universal healthcare system under which employment would not be tied to healthcare. (Photo: NNU/flickr/cc)

Healthcare advocates Wednesday charged that the U.S. Supreme Court's decision on birth control access is just the latest evidence that the federal government must expand Medicare coverage to all Americans, eliminating the for-profit system in which employment is tied to people's ability to obtain medical care.

Shortly after the 7-2 ruling in Trump vs. Pennsylvania declared the Trump administration was correct to exempt employers from having to cover birth control for employees on religious or moral grounds, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) pointed out how such rulings make clear that under the current for-profit healthcare system, medical decisions will never simply be between a patient and doctor.

"Patients' ability to get contraception shouldn't be up to employers. It should be a decision between patients and their doctors," tweeted Sanders, whose Medicare for All Act of 2019 has 14 co-sponsors in the Senate. "Healthcare—including birth control—is a right, not an employee benefit."

Sanders' outrage over the ruling echoed that of national reproductive rights groups such as NARAL and Planned Parenthood, but those organizations did not suggest fundamentally reforming the healthcare system by covering everyone in the U.S. under the existing Medicare system and taking women's healthcare decisions out of the hands of their employers.

"We must fight Trump's rollback of these rights by passing Medicare for All," said Sanders.

Rep. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.) wrote later in the day that "this wouldn't even be an issue if healthcare wasn't tied to employment."

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The ruling was the latest example for Medicare for All advocates to point to as they decry the dangerous risks inherent in the current for-profit health insurance system.

The Economic Policy Institute estimated in May that since the coronavirus pandemic began in the U.S., 16.2 million Americans have lost the health coverage they had access to through their employers, as the unemployment crisis caused by the public health emergency has left more than 32 million without work. EPI and others have recommended since the pandemic began that Medicare and Medicaid be expanded to cope with the economic effects. 

Progressive congressional candidates Christopher Hale, who is running in Tennessee, and Beth Doglio, who is running in Washington, also wrote on social media that women's access to birth control should not be up to one's employer.

In 2014, after the Supreme Court first ruled that employers can refuse to cover contraceptives in Burwell vs. Hobby Lobby, Hale wrote at Time magazine that the decision revealed "that Obamacare—for all the good it's done in increasing access to quality and affordable healthcare—is a messy law." 

"It asks employees to be at the whim of its employers' objectives and mission for what healthcare benefits they receive," Hale wrote. "This isn't sustainable. A person's access to quality healthcare shouldn't depend on who their boss is."

Medicare for All would represent "freedom" to Americans, wrote Justice Democrats co-founder and radio host Kyle Kulinski, while the for-profit employment-based system is "tyranny."

"Do you know what would be great? If employers and insurance companies weren't involved in birth control or healthcare at all," tweeted Holly Stallcup, executive director of Rise, a faith-based women's organization in Texas. "If all medically related decisions really were between doctor and patient. Medicare for All would be happy to help."

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