Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Bernie Sanders: single-payer health care

From the Bernie Sanders campaign:

I want to talk with you about one of the very real differences between Secretary Clinton and me that surfaced during last weekend's debate, and that is our approach to health care in this country.

I was, and all progressives should be, deeply disappointed in some of her attacks on a Medicare-for-all, single-payer health care system. The health insurance lobbyists and big pharmaceutical companies try to make "national health care" sound scary. It is not.

In fact, a large single-payer system already exists in the United States. It's called Medicare and the people enrolled give it high marks. More importantly, it has succeeded in providing near-universal coverage to Americans over age 65 in a very cost-effective manner.

So I want to go over some facts with you and ask that you take action on this important issue:

Right now, because of the gains made under the Affordable Care Act, 17 million people have health care who did not before the law was passed. This is a good start, and something we should be proud of. But we can do better.

The truth is, it is a national disgrace that the United States is the only major country that does not guarantee health care to all people as a right. Today, 29 million of our sisters and brothers are without care. Not only are deductibles rising, but the cost of prescription drugs is skyrocketing as well. There is a major crisis in primary health care in the United States.

So I start my approach to health care from two very simple premises:

1. Health care must be recognized as a right, not a privilege -- every man, woman and child in our country should be able to access quality care regardless of their income.

2. We must create a national system to provide care for every single American in the most cost-effective way possible.

I expected to take some heat on these fundamental beliefs during a general election, but since it is already happening in the Democratic primary, I want to address some of the critiques made by Secretary Clinton and Rupert Murdoch's Wall Street Journal directly:

Under my plan, we will lower the cost of health care for the average family making $50,000 a year by nearly $5,000 a year. It is unfair to say simply how much more a program will cost without letting people know we are doing away with the cost of private insurance and that the middle class will be paying substantially less for health care under a single-payer system than Hillary Clinton's program. Attacking the cost of the plan without acknowledging the bottom-line savings is the way Republicans have attacked this idea for decades. Taking that approach in a Democratic Primary undermines the hard work of so many who have fought to guarantee health care as a right in this country, and it hurts our prospects for achieving that goal in the near future. I hope that it stops.

Let me also be clear that a Medicare-for-all, single-payer health care system will expand employment by lifting a major financial weight off of the businesses burdened by employee health expenses. And for the millions of Americans who are currently in jobs they don't like but must stay put because of health care access, they would be free to explore more productive opportunities as they desire.

So, what is stopping us from guaranteeing free, quality health care as a basic fundamental right for all Americans? I believe the answer ties into campaign finance reform.

The truth is, the insurance companies and the drug companies are bribing the United States Congress.

Now, I don't go around asking millionaires and billionaires for money. You know that. I don't think I'm going to get a whole lot of contributions from the health care and pharmaceutical industries. I don't like to kick a man when he is down, but when some bad actors have tried to contribute to our campaign, like the pharmaceutical CEO Martin Shkreli who jacked up the price of a life saving drug for AIDS patients, I donated his contribution to an AIDS clinic in Washington, D.C.

Secretary Clinton, on the other hand, has received millions of dollars from the health care and pharmaceutical industries, a number that is sure to rise as time goes on. Since 1998, there are no industries that have spent more money to influence legislators than these two. Billions of dollars! An absolutely obscene amount of money. And in this election cycle alone, Secretary Clinton has raised more money from the health care industry than did the top 3 Republicans -- combined.

Now, and let's not be naive about this, maybe they are dumb and don't know what they are going to get? But I don't think that's the case, and I don't believe you do either.

So, what can we do about it?

Changing the health care laws in this country in such a way that guarantees health care as a right and not a privilege will require nothing short of a political revolution. That's what this campaign is about and it is work we must continue long after I am elected the next President of the United States.

And because of the success we have enjoyed so far, I am more convinced today than ever before that universal quality health care as a right for all Americans will eventually become the law of the land.

It is the only way forward.

BernieSanders.com