WASHINGTON – Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) said that taxes “may go up” to fund a “Medicare for all” program, based on income levels, but it would be offset by the elimination of private insurance costs.
“Today we begin the long and difficult struggle to end the international disgrace of the United States, our great nation, being the only major country on Earth not to guarantee healthcare to all of our people. As proud Americans, our job is to lead the world on healthcare, not to be woefully behind every other major country,” Sanders said during an event on Capitol Hill today.
“We are here to tell those families and people all across this country that under ‘Medicare for all,’ the average American family will be much better off financially than under the current system because you will no longer be writing checks to private insurance companies,” he added.
Under the proposal, every American would be covered through Medicare and the federal government would fund the costs. The Senate version of the bill includes various sources of revenue to pay for the expansion of Medicare.
Sanders published a separate paper detailing funding options, including a 7.5 percent premium assessed on employers, a 4 percent income-based premium assessed on households, raising taxes on upper wage earners, progressive hikes in the estate tax, and a healthcare wealth tax on the top 0.1 percent of earners.
The former Democratic presidential candidate said no one should have to stay in a job just because the company provides decent healthcare. He explained that a Medicare-for-all plan would give people the freedom to pursue their passion without worrying about healthcare coverage. Democratic Party leaders made a similar argument during the Obamacare debate.
“While, depending on your income, your taxes may go up to pay for this publicly funded program, that expense will be more than offset by the money you are saving by the elimination of private insurance costs,” Sanders said. “Today, we say to millions of workers you should not have to be stuck in a job that you don’t want just because it provides decent healthcare to your family.”
Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii), who has been battling stage 4 kidney cancer, said every person, including undocumented immigrants, should be covered under a single-payer healthcare plan.
“Immigrants, people who are in this country, 11 million undocumented people and 800,000 DACA participants who are about to be deported in the next six months, all the people in this country should have healthcare as a right, not a privilege,” she said at the event.
A Sanders spokesperson told PJM that the existing Senate version of the Medicare-for-all legislation would cover “all residents of the U.S.”
According to the text of the bill, the Health and Human Services Secretary “shall promulgate a rule that provides criteria for determining residency for eligibility purposes under this Act.”
Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) said passage of the Medicare-for-all bill would eliminate the Hyde Amendment so every woman would have access to abortion services.
“Consider the Hyde Amendment history if we pass ‘Medicare for all,’ and all those other restrictions on reproductive rights,” he said.
Referring to a Canadian woman who spoke at the event about the benefits of her country’s healthcare system, Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) said he is ashamed that Canada offers basic care to every citizen while his home country does not.
“I love my northern neighbor, but it is embarrassing to me to have a Canadian stand here in the Capitol of the United States of America and talk about a system that takes care of their children better than we take care of our children – our most valuable natural resource,” he said.
“I cannot sit when Australia or Canada or England takes care of every one of their children better than the United States of America,” Booker added. “In this nation, this noble country, this country of love and compassion and empathy, we must stand up right now and say that we will be the symbol of hope and light and freedom and justice and liberty for all.”
So far, 16 Democratic senators out of 48 have announced their support for the legislation.