July 8, 2009
By Bernie Sanders
I sent an email to my Senate mailing list requesting support for a single-payer Medicare-for-All system, and for personal stories describing the problems people are having with their health care coverage. Within a few weeks, some 40,000 people signed the single-payer petition and more than 4,000 sent in their personal stories. I collected some of the letters in a booklet,"The Health Care Crisis: Letters from V.t and America."
I sent an email to my Senate mailing list requesting support
for a single-payer Medicare-for-All system, and for personal stories describing
the problems people are having with their health care coverage. Within a few weeks, some 40,000 people signed the single-payer
petition and more than 4,000 sent in their personal stories. I
want to thank all of those who responded.
I collected some of the letters in a booklet, The Health
Care Crisis: Letters from Vermont and America. In poignant
and heartbreaking terms, the letters describe the pain and outrage that people
are experiencing within our dysfunctional health care system.
A man in Swanton, Vt., told the story of his younger brother, a combat-decorated
veteran of the Vietnam conflict, who died three weeks after being diagnosed
with colon cancer. He was laid off from his job and could not afford COBRA
coverage. When he was in enough pain to see a doctor, it was too late. He left
a wife and two teenage sons in the prime of his life at 50 years old. The
attending doctor said that if he had only sought treatment earlier he would
still be alive.
A woman in Eagle, Idaho, wrote of a beautiful, intelligent,
hard working small business owner who died because she couldn't afford to buy
health insurance for her family nor her employees. She was 53 and I will never
forgive my county for allowing the greed of the insurance companies to limit
her opportunity for preventable health care.
A colonoscopy at 50 would have saved her life.
Because every American needs to hear whats going on with
health care in this country, I intend to read some of these letters on the
floor of the Senate and send a copy of the booklet to every member of Congress.
I am sure that you will agree with me that it is
o 46 million
Americans lack any health insurance and that even more are underinsured.
o More than 18,000
Americans die every year because they dont have access to a doctor of their
o One million
Americans will go bankrupt this year because of medically-related debt.
spending almost twice as much per person we lag far behind many other nations
in such health care outcomes as life expectancy, infant mortality and
o While we
have a major shortage in primary care physicians, nurses and dentists, almost
one in every three dollars spent in this country on health care goes for
administration, bureaucracy and profiteering.
It has become clear that the function of a private health
insurance is to make as much money as
possible. Every dollar not paid out in
claims is another dollar made in profits for the company. Insurance companies spend millions to hire
people to do everything they can to avoid paying out legitimate claims, denying coverage
because of pre-existing conditions and terminating coverage because of high
It is no surprise, therefore, that tens of thousands of
doctors support a single-payer health care system, as well as the largest nurses unions in
the country. These health care
professionals do so not just because they are outraged by the lack of coverage
Americans experience, but because they are sick and tired of wasting their
valuable time arguing with insurance bureaucrats about how they will treat
In my view, the fight for universal and comprehensive health
care is the civil rights battle of our time. Like the other great struggles in
our history that have made us a more democratic and just society, victory will
require a strong and united grassroots movement that is prepared to take on the
very powerful and wealthy special interests that benefit from this failing
health care system.
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Bernie Sanders is the independent U.S. Senator from Vermont. He is the longest serving independent member of Congress in American history. He is a member of the Senate's Budget, Veterans, Environment, Energy, and H.E.L.P. (Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions) committees.