Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders today introduced his “Medicare for all” bill to overhaul the U.S. health care system. The legislation would eliminate most private health coverage — including employer-sponsored insurance — and instead create a single, public health plan for all Americans, regardless of age, including tens of millions who currently lack insurance.
Notably, the bill lacks a funding mechanism. Sanders’ staff have said those details are yet to come. The price tag will be huge; Vox’s Sarah Kliff says the benefit package included in the bill “is significantly more generous than the single-payer plans run by America’s peer countries” because it pays for such a wide array of benefits (including vision, dental and prescription drugs) and includes very little cost-sharing from beneficiaries (such as copayments).
That would mean higher taxes for many or most households — but it would also mean insurance premiums would become a thing of the past. Americans, on average, now spend in the neighborhood of $10,000 on health care annually. Sanders argues that the majority of households would see their overall health care spending decrease more than their taxes would increase. (Kliff concludes that it’s too soon to tell whether the plan would push down costs overall.)
Single payer was once considered a political nonstarter in American politics. Today, Sanders’ bill found 15 Democratic co-sponsors, including Sens. Elizabeth Warren, Kamala Harris, Cory Booker and Kirsten Gillibrand, all leading voices in the party.
The bill has no chance of passage in a Republican-controlled Congress, but it lays the groundwork for the next health care fight. Meanwhile, GOP efforts to overhaul healthcare seem to have no chance of passing either. A group of Republican senators led by Sen. Lindsay Graham and Bill Cassidy released their own last-ditch version of repeal-and-replace today.