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With Medicare for All, Bernie Sanders moved the Democratic Party left

Written by Diane Archer

Osita Nwanevu reports for the New Yorker on how Senator Bernie Sanders has single-handedly moved the Democratic Party left on health care with his vision of Medicare for All. Medicare for All would improve traditional Medicare to fill all coverage gaps, add important benefits including home and nursing home care, allow people to continue to use the doctors and hospitals they want to use and eliminate all out-of-pocket health care costs. Virtually all presidential candidates now include at least a Medicare option in their health care reform proposals. 

To be clear, a Medicare option, sometimes called a “public option,” recognizes the value of public insurance at reining in costs and guaranteeing people health care, but keeps private insurance as an option for people as well, thereby failing to bring down costs adequately or ensure people access to care. Only Medicare for All delivers affordable care to all. It does not ration care based on ability to pay.

Some Democratic presidential candidates see Medicare for All as “bad” policy, including John Delaney. He appears to object to “free health care” because he thinks it is the wrong message for Democrats to be sending out. He appears to be OK with limiting access to care based on costs.

Delaney proposes a universal public program that would not meet people’s basic needs. He would offer people a public plan with gaps in coverage. People could buy private supplemental coverage to fill gaps in the public plan. One question is how his plan would ensure people do not find themselves broke or being donned by collection agencies because their out-of-pocket costs are unaffordable. Another question is how his plan would be paid for.

Mayor Pete Buttigieg wants you to believe that his plan to allow people to buy into Medicare–the public option–will ultimately mean that private plans  will wither on the vine. I once believed that as well. Then, I saw how Medicare Advantage plans, which were billed as less costly than traditional Medicare, have been ripping off taxpayers by overcharging for their services, while being engaged in what the Office of the Inspector General calls widespread denials of care and coverage. Still, the Medicare Advantage plans have been working with the Trump administration’s Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to steer people into their plans.

Senator Kamala Harris aims to let people transition to a public or private Medicare plan over ten years. However, her plan does nothing to address the $503 billion a year in administrative expense that private plans bring to our health care system. It does nothing to prevent gaming by Medicare Advantage plans; Harris has no answer as to how she plans to hold them accountable. And, it does nothing to guarantee Americans affordable care. 

Morning Consult reported last month that 55 percent of Americans support Medicare for All once they understand that they can continue to use the doctors and hospitals they want to use. Its poll of 1,472 voters, taken between June 29 and July 2, found that 56 percent of Independents support Medicare for All if they are told they can continue to use their doctors and hospitals.

Americans need to have faith that the new public plan they would get through Medicare for All is better than the plan they currently have through their employer. Given how many people can’t wait to get on Medicare, which offers less generous benefits at greater cost than Medicare for All, it simply should be a matter of time before the vast majority of Americans support Medicare for All. None of the other health care reform options would ensure health care affordability for all Americans. 

If you support Medicare for all, please let Congress know. Sign this petition.

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