Sen. Bernie Sanders unveiled a universal health-care plan on Wednesday as he tries to set the tone on a pivotal issue in the 2020 Democratic presidential primary.
The Vermont independent introduced a new "Medicare for All" bill that would create a government-run system to provide health insurance for all Americans. While Sanders has proposed legislation to create a single-payer system before, the measure unveiled Wednesday would go further in covering long-term care for people with disabilities, bringing it in line with a bill introduced in the House earlier this year.
Sanders, who helped to vault Medicare for All into the political mainstream, hopes embracing sweeping change will help separate him from a crowded primary field. While four of Sanders' Democratic rivals — Sens. Cory Booker of New Jersey, Kirsten Gillibrand of New York, Kamala Harris of California and Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts — co-sponsored his legislation, none have as fully embraced the dismantling of the private insurance system as Sanders has.
"The current debate over Medicare for All really has nothing to do with health care," the senator said at a news conference unveiling the legislation. "It has everything to do with greed and profiteering. It is about whether we continue a dysfunctional system."
Sanders' bill, which has 14 Senate co-sponsors, would:
- Cover primary and preventive care, prescription drugs, dental and vision care, mental health and substance abuse treatment, as well as maternity, newborn and long-term care through a government-run plan
- Let Americans see any doctor they want to with no deductibles or copays
- Effectively end the private health insurance market
On Wednesday, Sanders' office outlined potential methods to finance the system. Those include income-based premiums paid by employees and employers, hiking the marginal tax rate to up to 70 percent on people making $10 million or more, raising the estate tax and putting a "fee on large financial institutions."
Sanders has argued a single-payer system would reduce costs for consumers. While the government would have to hike taxes to cover a potential price tag in the tens of trillions of dollars, the senator says Americans would see fewer out-of-pocket costs.