Just one day after the Republican effort to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act spectacularly collapsed before even reaching a vote in the House of Representatives, a certain Vermont senator is already pressing the advantage. Speaking at a town hall in Hardwick, Vermont on Saturday afternoon, Bernie Sanders reportedly promised a Medicare-for-all bill, saying he'd soon introduce it to the U.S. Senate.
This is nothing new or surprising from Sanders, who's been one of the most prominent voices in American politics in favor of single-payer, government-provided health care. It's a cause that stems from his fundamental belief that health care is a human right, an outlook which seems to have some wind at its back right now. Over the past three weeks, the GOP struggled mightily to sell the Trumpcare bill, in no small part because it favored "access" over coverage, prioritizing a financially secure person's ability to make a yes-or-no decision to purchase private insurance over swaths of low-income Americans' abilities to actually afford it.
In short, Sanders' brand of "health care is a right" politics seems much better positioned for success in the current political moment, even though it's bound to hit a quickly hit a wall. Republican majorities in the House and Senate would effectively preclude his bill from passing, barring some kind of dramatic shift in the political winds ― although President Trump has spoken approvingly of single-payer health care in the past, there's no such affinity within the congressional GOP.
Regardless, Sanders seems intent on moving the mainstream of the Democratic Party to the left, championing a vision of universal health care even more sweeping and comprehensive than what the ACA achieved. Under a Medicare-for-all plan, Americans wouldn't have to worry about purchasing private insurance anymore. To the contrary, assuming the program was adequately and sustainably funded, health care could theoretically become as simple as getting sick, going to the doctor, getting care, and getting better.
Here's how Sanders frames the issue on his official website ― it's a simple vision that leaves a lot of steps unaddressed, but for a progressive audience, it's highly appealing.
Health care must be recognized as a right, not a privilege. Every man, woman and child in our country should be able to access the health care they need regardless of their income. The only long-term solution to America's health care crisis is a single-payer national health care program.
Sanders didn't announce an exact date for when his bill would be introduced, but it's probably safe to assume he's going to follow through on this. If there's any area where he's been vociferous in his opposition to the Trump agenda, it's been on health care and social services ― he called out Trump over his promises about Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security prior to the inauguration, and has continued raising the issue since.