Published 2:06 PM EDT Oct 11, 2018
The American people have a very clear choice in the upcoming elections. On one side is Donald Trump and the Republican leadership in Congress, who made throwing 32 million Americans off of health insurance their number one priority in Washington. On the other side is my "Medicare for All" plan supported by 16 senators and 122 House members. It would guarantee everyone could get the health care they need without going into debt at far lower cost than the current dysfunctional system.
And Americans are very clear about which side they are on. In a poll last summer, 70 percent said they support expanding and improving Medicare to cover everyone in our country. They understand that there is something profoundly wrong when our current dysfunctional health care system is designed not to provide quality care to all, but to enable the private health insurance industry and drug companies to make billions in profits.
Despite spending almost twice as much per capita as any other country, 30 million Americans have no health insurance and many more are underinsured with high deductibles and co-payments. Further, the pharmaceutical industry charges us, by far, the highest prices in the world for prescription drugs. It is insane that today it costs an average of $28,000 a year to provide health insurance to a family of four. It is equally insane that one out of five Americans cannot afford the prescription drugs their doctors prescribe.
Donald Trump has only made health care worse
Medicare is the most popular, successful and cost-effective health insurance program in the country. Today, only people 65 and older are eligible for it. Americans shouldn’t have to wait that long to get the high-quality health care they need and deserve.
As president, Trump has made our health care system worse. While we were able to defeat his budget which proposed a $1 trillion cut to Medicaid, a $500 billion cut to Medicare and a $72 billion cut to the Social Security disability fund, we were unable to stop other very harmful measures.
As a result of his efforts to sabotage the Affordable Care Act, 13 million more Americans will become uninsured over the next decade while millions more have seen their premiums rise. Further, his administration is working alongside 20 Republican state attorneys general to end the protection that the Affordable Care Act now guarantees to people with pre-existing conditions, such as cancer, heart disease and diabetes. No one can estimate how many thousands of those people will die if they can no longer purchase affordable insurance.
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We have a different idea: Expand Medicare to all. My bill would provide comprehensive and cost-effective health care for everyone — without out-of-pocket expenses.
Study after study shows that when we eliminate private insurance premiums, deductibles and co-payments, the average American will pay substantially less for health care than he or she currently pays. For example, a recent study by RAND found that moving to a Medicare for All system in New York would save a family with an income of $185,000 or less about $3,000 per person a year, on average. Even the projections from the conservative Mercatus Center suggest that the average American could save about $6,000 under Medicare for All over a 10-year period.
Medicare for All not only benefits individuals and families, it would also benefit the business community. Small and medium sized businesses would be free to focus on their core business goals instead of wasting precious energy and resources navigating an incredibly complex system to provide employee health insurance. Equally important, with universal health care, workers would not have to stay at jobs they dislike just because their employer provides decent health insurance.
Medicare for All is better for seniors
Given the president’s propensity to lie about almost everything, it is not surprising that Trump is grossly distorting what the Medicare for All legislation does.
Our proposal would not cut benefits for seniors on Medicare, as the president and his Republican allies claim. In fact, we expand benefits. Millions of seniors today cannot afford dental care, vision care or hearing aids because Medicare does not cover them. Our proposal does. In addition, Medicare for All would eliminate deductibles and copays for seniors and significantly lower the cost of prescription drugs. Medicare for All allows seniors and all Americans to see the doctors they want, not the doctors in their insurance networks.
Trump claims that Medicare for All is not affordable. That is nonsense. What we cannot afford is to continue spending almost twice as much per capita on health care as any other country on Earth. We can’t afford the $28,000 it currently costs to provide health insurance for the average family of four. We can’t afford to have 30 million Americans with no health insurance and even more who are under-insured with high deductibles and high co-payments. We can’t afford to have millions of Americans get sicker than they should, and in some cases die, because they can’t afford to go to the doctor.
Here is the bottom line: If every major country on earth can guarantee health care to all and achieve better health outcomes, while spending substantially less per capita than we do, it is absurd for anyone to suggest that the United States of America cannot do the same.
Bernie Sanders is an independent senator from Vermont. Follow him on Twitter: @SenSanders