Presidential candidate and U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders, I-Vt. defended his proposal to extend Medicare to all Americans at the Jack Morton Auditorium Wednesday.
Sanders, in his second campaign appearance at GW, discussed Medicare for All, his proposal to allow any U.S. resident to sign up for the national health insurance program, which currently limits access only to Americans aged 65 or older and certain people with disabilities. Sanders, one of about 25 Democrats seeking the party’s nomination in the 2020 election, said the law would lower prescription drug prices and eliminate out-of-pocket medical costs.
Sanders said it is an “international embarrassment” for the United States, the “wealthiest and most powerful nation,” not to guarantee health care to all citizens. He added that health care is not a privilege but a human right and said it was “not acceptable” that an estimated 87 million people are underinsured.
“The current debate over Medicare for All has nothing to do with health care,” Sanders said. “We are not in a debate about which health care system is working well or which is best. No one thinks that a system in which 80 million people or more have no health insurance or are underinsured is a good system.”
Sanders said his proposal will end the “stupidity” and “ugliness” of medical bankruptcy, in which people declare insolvency to discharge medical debts, citing a study from earlier this year that found that about half a million U.S. families declare bankruptcy each year because of medical issues and bills.
“Families should not be driven into financial ruin because someone in the family becomes ill, think about that for a moment,” he said.
Sanders said his Medicare for All plan, which will cap and “significantly” lower prescription drug costs, will likely meet opposition from “some of the most powerful special interests in our country” with “unlimited amounts of money.” He added that those groups did the “exact same thing” 50 years ago but “failed” when Congress passed legislation in 1965 to create Medicare and Medicaid and “are going to fail again.”
Sanders said his health care proposal will eliminate insurance premiums, deductibles and copayments, which he characterized as “nothing less than taxes on the middle class.”
“Imagine that – a system designed to improve health, to prevent disease, rather than a system designed to make huge profits for the industry,” he said. “A Medicare for All system will save lives, it will save money and will end the frustration and endless paperwork, denials and desperate fights with an insurance company to cover medically necessary medications and procedures.”
Sanders added that people will have the freedom to choose any doctor, clinic or hospital under his Medicare for All plan, unlike the current “dysfunctional” system, in which people must worry about whether those options are covered by their insurance provider.
He also called on every Democratic candidate for president to reject donations of over $200 from health insurance and pharmaceutical companies. Sanders added that candidates who are not willing to do so should explain why those companies and their donations are a “good investment for the health care industry.”
“The time is now to stand with the American people and guarantee health care to all people,” he said. “The time is now to tell the drug companies and the insurance companies we don’t want their money because we don’t think that the current health care system is right because it is geared toward profits for those industries rather than the need of the American people.”