From The NationThe senator from Vermont explains why there is now so much interest in bold reform of America's health-care system.
Bernie Sanders has for decades argued that the United States must establish a single-payer health-care system that provides the guarantee of care for all while controlling costs -- what he calls a "Medicare for All" structure. So it came as no surprise that the senator from Vermont made single payer central to his 2016 presidential bid. What is striking now that the campaign has finished, however, is the burgeoning interest on part of prominent Democrats in a reform that was once considered "too bold."
As Sanders prepared to introduce a detailed "Medicare for All" bill on Wednesday, Democratic senators from across the country and from across the ideological spectrum -- including Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, Jeff Merkley of Oregon, Kamala Harris of California, Cory Booker of New Jersey, and Kirsten Gillibrand of New York -- announced that they would be signing on as cosponsors. Unions such as National Nurses United were declaring their enthusiastic support for the measure. And media coverage, while still too dismissive of real reform and too obsessed with disputes over the direction of the Democratic Party, afforded the plan dramatically more attention than previous efforts.
The Nation sat down with Sanders in his Capitol Hill office as he was preparing his legislation and asked him to explain why single payer is suddenly being embraced by top Democrats, and why so many Americans are expressing interest in going big when it comes to issues of health-care access and affordability.
The Nation: Why do you think single payer is gaining so much traction at this point? Your campaign certainly increased interest in the movement for a "Medicare for All" reform. But there's more to it than that, isn't there?
Bernie Sanders: I think it's a combination of factors. Number one, obviously, we have had this Republican effort to destroy the Affordable Care Act. It gives people a sense of what is at stake when we make decisions about health care. I think that many people, even now, do not appreciate the impact that [repealing the ACA] would have on the country.