The most popular politician in America is introducing legislation on Wednesday to create a single payer health care system—a previously radioactive proposal that is now drawing the support of leading Democratic politicians.
Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) is proposing a Medicare-for-all schematic that, if implemented, would transition the entire country away from private and employer-based insurance to a universal system that mirrors Medicare.
Under Sanders’ proposal, Americans would no longer pay insurance premiums. Health care would be provided, in most cases, without charge, and financed by higher taxes on the wealthy and additional payroll taxes.
The bill would require coverage for hospital and emergency services, prescription drugs, primary and preventative care, mental health and substance abuse treatment, reproductive and newborn care, medical devices, dental and vision, rehabilitation therapy, and other treatment.
Sanders previously introduced a single payer health care bill in 2013, but was unable to garner a single co-sponsorship. This time around, Sanders has roughly a third of the Senate Democratic caucus on his side, including some of the party’s most recognizable names and potential 2020 presidential candidates.
Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), and at least 11 other upper chamber Democrats are co-sponsoring the legislation.
“Guaranteeing health care as a right is important to the American people not just from a moral and financial perspective; it also happens to be what the majority of the American people want,” Sanders wrote in an op-ed for the New York Times Wednesday.
The surge in support for Sanders’ bill is a testament to the success and popularity of his bid for president in 2016. Although he lost the Democratic primary to former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Sanders managed to elevate the issue of single payer healthcare, turning it from a leftist pipe dream into an achievable policy with broad support among the electorate.
According to an April poll conducted by YouGov/The Economist, 60 percent of American support a Medicare-for-all system, including 58 percent of independents and nearly half of all Republicans.
Democrats who were previously skeptical of such approach are now coming around to the appeal of single payer. Former Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.)—one of the key figures to kill the public option during the Affordable Care Act debate in 2009—urged lawmakers to explore single payer solutions.
Conservative Democrat Joe Manchin (D-W. Va.) said he’d like to see the bill go through committee and “let it go through the process.”
There are still some holdouts among Democrats. Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) said the costs of a single payer system are too high.
The Democrats’ Vice President nominee in 2016 declined to co-sponsor Sanders’ bill. Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) said that he was, instead, focused on ensuring more choices for consumers in the health insurance market place.
Progressive Senator Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) surprisingly also didn’t sign on the legislation. He said he was focused on working to lower the eligibility age of Medicare to 55.
Sanders’ legislation isn’t the only game on Capitol Hill. In the House, Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.) has a single payer proposal circulating that has attracted 117 Democratic cosponsors.