The United States today is the only industrialized nation that doesn’t guarantee health care as a basic right to all its citizens. Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., introduced legislation this week to change that.
The bill, titled “The Medicare for All Act,” would gradually expand Medicare coverage to all Americans by reducing the program’s eligibility age incrementally over four years. In essence, the health insurance currently provided to seniors over 65 would be accessible to everyone.
More concretely, it would replace private health insurance corporations, and the immense profits, power and administrative bloat that goes along with them.
As Congress remains stymied in partisan gridlock and the president teeters between scandal and incoherence, now is precisely the time to put forward a bold vision for a more civilized, caring country.
Sanders campaigned around the country during the 2016 Democratic primary to massive, adoring crowds sharing his ideas for universal health care. While he gained widespread support from coast to coast, and especially in the Midwest, his colleagues in the Senate kept a measured distance. That’s changed.
Why Democrats suddenly like a Bernie Sanders idea once treated as politically impossible.
Sixteen of Sanders’ Democratic colleagues have come out to co-sponsor the legislation, including rumored presidential hopefuls Sens. Cory Booker, D-N.J., and Kamala Harris, D-Calif. The list of supporters includes moderates in swing states like Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., as well as the expected progressive champions like Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass.
To show just how far the idea has come in such a short amount of time, consider former Senator Max Baucus, D-Mont., an outspoken critic of single payer who was active in blocking consideration of the idea during debate over the Affordable Care Act in 2009. Sanders was quoted at the time claiming Baucus wouldn’t support single payer in “a million years.”
Yet the week before Sanders introduced his latest bill, Baucus himself told a crowd in Montana: “My personal view is we’ve got to start looking at single-payer … It’s going to happen.”
Life comes at you fast.