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Sanders unveils single-payer bill to cheers from supporters

The Hill logo The Hill 6 days ago Jessie Hellmann and Rachel Roubein
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Video by Reuters

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) unveiled his single-payer health-care plan on Wednesday to cheers and a brief "Medicare for all" chant from supporters.

Nine Senate Democrats joined Sanders for the unveiling, with two possible presidential candidates, Sens. Cory Booker (N.J.) and Kirsten Gillibrand (N.Y.), getting into the camera shot.

"The American people want to know what we're going to do to fix a dysfunctional health-care system, which costs us twice as much" per person as any other country, Sanders said at the opening of the press conference, casting aside speculation by the media about what the bill might mean politically for Democrats.

At the White House, press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders fired at the Democratic proposal, calling it a "horrible" idea that would put government further in charge of Americans' health care.

She also belittled Sanders, saying that if his ideas were as popular as he thought, he would have won last year's Democratic primary and been elected president.

Sanders unveils single-payer bill to cheers from supporters © Provided by The Hill Sanders unveils single-payer bill to cheers from supporters

Sanders has seen support for his proposal grow. In 2013, a similar bill garnered no co-sponsors. Sanders already has 16 fellow senators on his bill this time, though centrists and party leaders have shied away from direct endorsements.

The bill would expand Medicare into a national health insurance program, extending comprehensive health insurance to every U.S. resident. Many services would have no co-payments under the Sanders approach.

The program would be rolled out over a four-year period, with the eligibility age dropping every year until every U.S. resident is covered.

Those aged 18 and under would automatically be eligible in the first year.

The program, which would essentially separate health insurance from employment, would cover a full range of benefits, including inpatient and outpatient hospital care, prescription drugs, mental health and substance abuse treatment and maternity care.

Sanders also released options to finance his single-player plan, which caught heat during his presidential bid for its high cost.

This includes a 7.5 percent income-based premium to be paid by employers, a 4 percent income-based premium to be paid by households, changes to the estate tax and a new tax on the top 0.1 percent of Americans based on income.

Already, about 30 national liberal organizations and unions have endorsed the bill, including MoveOn.org, Food and Water Watch and National Nurses United.

The trade group for insurance companies immediately announced its opposition.

The plan was announced the same day Sens. Bill Cassidy (R-La.), Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Dean Heller (R-Nev.) unveiled their plan to repeal ObamaCare in a last-ditch effort to gut former President Barack Obama's signature legislation. Many view it as unlikely to pass, and the GOP only has until the end of the month to repeal ObamaCare and avoid a Democratic filibuster.

The Sanders plan has no real chance of becoming law with a Republican-controlled Congress and White House but is likely to be a touchstone in the years to come.


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