Vice President Joe Biden, the presumptive Democratic candidate for president, in a speech in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, decried Trump’s latest move to have the Affordable Care Act declared “unconstitutional,” despite having been ruled constitutional several times by the Supreme Court. The latest move, based on the dubious claim that the ACA’s “individual mandate” is unconstitutional, and therefore negates the entire law (duly passed by Congress in 2010, which enabled 30 million to access health care without being cut off because of preexisting conditions and no lifetime caps, and requiring at least 80% of premiums to go to patient care, and for the first time reversed the explosive annual increases in premiums), was inspired when the Republican 2017 tax law made the fine zero, the warped logic a right wing Texas judge used to therefore declare the entire law unconstitutional.
Instead, Biden spoke up for the crucial benefits of the Affordable Care Act and said if he were president, he would expand the public option, ensure premiums are never more than 8.5% of income, end surprise billing for medical care. “My plan lowers health care costs and gets us to universal coverage quickly when Americans desperately need it.” In Biden’s remarks, he distinguished his approach to the presidency from Trump’s – essentially, Biden intends to serve the people, while Trump, clueless in how to actually solve problems, is solely focused on what benefits himself politically.
“That’s what the presidency is — a duty to care for everyone. Not just those who voted for us…And no trust is more sacred, no responsibility is more solemn, no purpose is more fundamental, than for a President to do absolutely everything he or she can to protect American lives. “So I want every single American to know: if you’re sick, if you’re struggling, if you’re worried about how you’re going to get through the day — I will not abandon you. I will not leave you to face these challenges alone. We are going to get through this — together.”
Here are Biden’s remarks: — Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
Today, in the middle of the worst global health crisis in living memory, Donald Trump will file a brief in the Supreme Court to attempt to strip health coverage away from tens of millions of families, and to strip the peace of mind away from more than 100 million people with pre-existing conditions.
If he succeeds, more than 23 million Americans could lose their coverage outright— including nearly a million Pennsylvanians.
Insurers could once again discriminate, or deny services, or drop coverage for people living with preexisting conditions like asthma, diabetes, and cancer.
And perhaps most cruelly of all, if Donald Trump has his way, complications from COVID-19 could become a new pre-existing condition.
Some survivors will experience lasting health impacts — like lung scarring and heart damage.
And if Donald Trump prevails in court, insurers would be allowed to strip away coverage or jack up premiums — simply because of their battle with the coronavirus.
Those survivors, having struggled and won the fight of their lives, would have their peace of mind stolen away at the moment they need it most.
They would live their lives caught in a vise between Donald Trump’s twin legacies: his failure to protect the American people from the coronavirus, and his heartless crusade to take health care protections away from American families.
I have called on Donald Trump many times to withdraw his lawsuit. Today, I am renewing that call.
Mr. President, drop the lawsuit. Stop trying to take away people’s health care.
Now more than ever, stop trying to steal their peace of mind. I cannot comprehend the cruelty that is driving him to inflict this pain on the very people he is supposed to serve.
One of the families the Affordable Care Act has delivered peace of mind to is the Ritters—who live not far from here in Manheim, Pennsylvania.
Jan and Madeline Ritter were just four years old when their mom, Stacie, heard some of the most devastating words that a parent can ever hear. Both of her twins had been diagnosed with leukemia.
I promise you — that news — it stops your heart. It wrenches your entire world off of its axis. And the very last thing on your mind — the very last thing that should be on your mind— is whether you can afford treatment.
But when Stacie’s twins got sick, there was no Affordable Care Act.
So, after the draining days and the endless nights, the harrowing stem-cell transplants, the fickle waves of hope and fear, after enduring more than any parent should have to endure, the Ritters still faced a future where their twins could be denied coverage for the rest of their lives.
The Affordable Care Act was created to put a stop to that inhumanity — to ensure that people like Stacie, thrust into the worst nightmare of their lives, could focus on the fight that matters.
Stacie’s twins won their fight. They beat cancer — and now, they’re 22 years old. Jan is studying early education at Elizabethtown College. Madeline just graduated from Arcadia University with a degree in international studies. And because of the law, insurance companies can no longer deny them coverage because they’re survivors of cancer.
I’m proud of the Affordable Care Act.
In addition to protecting people with pre-existing conditions, this is a law that delivered vital coverage to more than 20 million Americans.
It’s a law that bars insurance companies from capping Americans’ benefits— and from charging women more simply because they are women.
It’s a law that reduced prescription drug costs for nearly 12 million seniors, who would see their those costs spike — because the Medicare ‘donut hole’would have suddenly reopened.
It’s a law that saves lives.
But now, in the middle of the worst public health crisis in modern history, Donald Trump is suing to take the Ritters and millions more Americans — back to the way things were.
It’s cruel, it’s heartless, and it’s callous.
And it’s all because he can’t abide the thought of letting stand one of President Obama’s greatest achievements.
We’ve seen that same callousness in his handling of the coronavirus.
Just over three months ago, as most Americans were first coming to grips with the unprecedented scale and danger of the pandemic, President Trump publicly claimed that, “Anybody that wants a test can get a test.”
That wasn’t true. And he knew it.
Then, five days ago, at his campaign gathering in Tulsa, he admitted telling his people to, slow the testing down, please.” At first, his spokespeople tried to say he was joking. But then Trump himself said he wasn’t joking.
He called testing, “a double-edged sword.” Let’s be crystal clear about what he means by that.
Testing unequivocally saves lives, and widespread testing is the key to opening up our economy again — so that’s one edge of the sword.
The other edge: that he thinks finding out that more Americans are sick will make him look bad.
And that’s what he’s worried about. He’s worried about looking bad.
Well, Donald Trump needs to stop caring about how he looks and start caring about what’s really happening in America.
The number of cases is increasing in 29 states. We are going to be dealing with this for a long time. Trump can’t wish it away. He can’t bend it to meet his political wishes. There are no miracles coming.
We are going to have to step up as Americans — all of us — and do both the simple things — and the hard things — to keep our families and neighbors safe, to re-open our economy, and to eventually put the pandemic behind us.
And sadly — we are going to have to do it without responsible leadership from the White House. So it is up to us. All of us.
We’re going to have to wear masks. And I know as Americans it’s not something we’re used to. But it matters. All the evidence from all over the world tells us it just might be the most effective thing we can do.
We’re going to have to socially distance. It’s not easy. It seems so strange to us. Not as Americans, but as human beings. We’re built to talk, to laugh, to hug, to gather with other people. I know I am. I know you are. But for now, we have to socially distance. It matters.
We’re going to have to find a way to keep our economy running as we bring the number of cases down. The president wants you to believe this is a choice between the economy and the public’s health. He still hasn’t grasped the most basic fact of this crisis: to fix our economy, we have to get control of the virus.
He’s like a child who just can’t believe this has happened to him. It’s all whining and self-pity. This pandemic didn’t happen to him. It happened to all of us.
And his job isn’t to whine about it. His job is to do something about it.
If I have the honor of becoming President, I promise you I will lead.
I will do everything I can to take responsibility and ease that burden on you and your families. I will put your family first. And that will begin with a dramatic expansion of health coverage and bold steps to lower health care costs.
We need a public option now more than ever — especially at a time when more than 20 million people are unemployed.
That public option will allow every American— regardless of their employment status — the choice to get a Medicare-like plan.
It will force private insurers to keep premiums low and offer better coverage because, for the first time, they’ll have to compete for your business against a public insurer that doesn’t have a profit motive.
We’re going to lower premiums for people buying coverage on their own by guaranteeing that no American ever has to spend more than 8.5 percent of their income on health insurance — and that number will be lower for lower-income families.
We’re also going to further reduce costs by making it less expensive for Americans to choose plans with lower deductibles and out-of-pocket expenses by lowering prescription drug prices and by ending the practice called “surprise billing,” which can leave you with an unexpectedly high bill after you leave a hospital.
Here’s the bottom line: my plan lowers health care costs and gets us to universal coverage quickly when Americans desperately need it.
Families are reeling right now — enduring illnesses, forced into risky choices, losing their employer plans in droves.
They need a lifeline now. That’s what the families here today deserve. That’s what families all across this nation deserve.
They don’t need a president going into court to deny them health care. They need a president going into the White House who will fight for the health care they need.
If Donald Trump refuses to end his senseless crusade against health coverage, I look forward to ending it for him. And working quickly with Congress to dramatically ramp up protections, get America to universal coverage, and lower health care costs as soon as humanly possible.
This is my promise to you. When I am President, I will take care of your health coverage the same way I would for my own family. This is personal to me.
I was sworn into the United States Senate next to a hospital bed. My wife and daughter had been killed in a car crash— and lying in that bed were my two surviving little boys.
I couldn’t imagine what it would have been like if we didn’t have the health care we needed immediately.
Forty years later, one of those little boys, my son Beau, was diagnosed with terminal cancer and given only months to live.
I couldn’t imagine an insurance company coming in and saying, “for the last six months of your life, you’re on your own” — which is exactly what happened to so many families before the Affordable Care Act.
So Amy, I understand.
And when I say I’ll take care of your health coverage the same way I would for my family — there is nothing I take more seriously.
That’s my promise to Stacie and Victoria and Amy and to every American.
That’s what the presidency is — a duty to care.
A duty to care for everyone.
Not just those who voted for us.
For all of us.
And no trust is more sacred, no responsibility is more solemn, no purpose is more fundamental, than for a President to do absolutely everything he or she can to protect American lives.
So I want every single American to know: if you’re sick, if you’re struggling, if you’re worried about how you’re going to get through the day — I will not abandon you.
I will not leave you to face these challenges alone.
We are going to get through this — together.
And we are going to build our health care system, our economy, and our country back better than it has ever been before.
Thank you. God bless you, and God protect our troops.
BURLINGTON, Vt. – Sen. Bernie Sanders gave remarks regarding the lessons we can learn from the growing coronavirus outbreak.This is a rushed transcript provided by the Sanders campaign:
Good afternoon everyone, thank you for being here. In the midst of a major healthcare and economic crisis currently facing our country, I’d like to take a few minutes to talk about the lessons we can learn long-term about what we are experiencing today.
As I discussed yesterday, our country is facing, as everybody knows, a medical and economic crisis, the likes of which we have not seen for generations. And we must prepare for this response in an unprecedented way, making certain that our government responds effectively, and protects the interests of all our people regardless of their income, or where they live. In other words, this is not just about giving tax breaks to large corporations, but about remembering the people today who don’t have much money, who are nervous about their economic futures and healthcare prospects.
to say we must massively increase the availability of test kits for the coronavirus and the speed at which the tests are
processed. We need to anticipate significant increases in hospital admissions, which means that we will need more
ICU units and ventilators, we will need more
doctors, nurses, and medical personnel of all kinds – and we must make sure
that these frontline personnel are well
protected from the diseases they are treating. I have talked to nurses
recently who worry very much about whether they are getting the kind of
knowledge and equipment they need so that they do not get sick.
We need to significantly improve
our communications and collaboration with other countries to ensure that we
are learning everything that we can about the successes and failures of other
countries as they deal with this crisis. And furthermore, we must be honest with the American people and
communicate as effectively and directly as we can with all of the scientific
information that we can provide.
Further, and most importantly, our
response to this entire crisis must be guided by the decisions of doctors,
scientists, and researchers, not politicians.
But as we struggle with this crisis, it is also important that we learn
the lessons of how we got to where we are today, and what we must do in the
future so that we are better prepared for similar crises that may come.
Poll after poll already shows us that the American people understand
that we must do what every other major country on earth does, and that is to guarantee healthcare to all of our people
as a human right, not a privilege. As we begin to see the failures and
vulnerabilities of the current healthcare system, my guess is that those
numbers and the demand for universal healthcare will only go up.
The American people are asking: how is it possible that we spend twice as much per capita as
the people of Canada and other major countries, while 87 million of us are uninsured or underinsured.
And obviously, in this crisis, and unbelievably, it means that people
who are sick today, people who woke up this morning with symptoms of the
coronavirus, are saying, “you know I feel sick but I cannot afford to go to a doctor.” And when somebody is
not treated for the virus – somebody who is unable to afford to go to that
doctor – that means that that infection can spread to many others, putting us
So it’s not just
a question that in normal times – tragically, unbelievably – that we lose 30,000 people a year because they
don’t get to doctor on time, but now the lack of healthcare threatens other
people as well.
How could it be, that when we spend so much more than what other countries are spending, we have millions of people who may be dealing with the virus but they cannot go to the doctor because they can’t afford it? That is a question that must resonate in every American’s mind.
If this isn’t a red flag for the current
dysfunctional and wasteful healthcare system, frankly I don’t know what is.
For the benefit of all of us, we must make sure that every person in
this country who needs to seek medical treatment can go to a doctor free of
charge regardless of their income. That is obviously what we must do now in the
middle of a crisis, but it is what we must do as a nation in the near future.
Here are just a few instances about how absurd and dysfunctional our
current healthcare system is.
It has been estimated that a full battery of tests for the coronavirus costs over $1,300. First of all,
take a look at that – $1,300 to get the test people need to have to know if
they have the virus or not.
In America today, 40% of our
people don’t have $400 in the bank to pay for an emergency expense. We
have half of our people living paycheck to paycheck.
If their car breaks down they can’t afford to get it fixed, and if
somebody tells them it costs $1,300 for the test to determine whether you have
the coronavirus if they’re sick, what are they supposed to do? What happens to
How can someone without insurance afford to pay $1,331 to get tested when they don’t even have $400 in the bank? What are they supposed to do? What happens to them? Do they go to a payday lender where the average interest rate is over 390%? Do they borrow money from their family? Or do they go without the test? Which every doctor in the world will tell them is a test they should have.
And while the Trump administration says it may cover co-pays to cover
the cost of testing for those who have insurance, they will not cover the cost of treatment – which could cost tens of
thousands of dollars.
How cruel is that? How absurd is that? To say to people, “we’re sorry
you have coronavirus, we covered the cost of the test, but now you’re on your
own and it’s going to cost tens of thousands of dollars to get treated.” That
is totally absurd.
Clearly what we need to do is to make sure that if someone has the
coronavirus that person gets the treatment that they need.
words, our current system leaves people uninsured, but even if you have
insurance you may not even have the ability to travel to a doctor near you.
Because now we’re talking about a system in which many rural hospitals have closed down and
they cannot find a doctor in their communities.
The reality today, and this is an issue we must to deal with, is that we don’t have enough doctors, we don’t have
enough hospitals, and we don’t have enough clinics in rural communities and
Further, we are in a situation when we desperately need affordable prescription drugs, yet we have a
pharmaceutical industry that continues to make billions in profits by charging
outrageous prices for prescription drugs, sometimes 10x more in this country than in other countries.
In my view,
the most cost effective way to reform our dysfunctional and cruel system is to
move to a Medicare for All, single-payer healthcare system.
And I think in the midst of this crisis, more and more Americans
understand the truth of that.
It is nearly impossible to
believe that anyone can still think it’s acceptable to continue with a
healthcare system that leaves tens of millions of people uninsured. The cruelty
and absurdity of that view is more obvious in the midst of this crisis than it
has ever been.
And let’s be clear. Lack of
healthcare and affordable medicine does not only threaten the healthcare and
well-being of the uninsured. It threatens everyone who comes in contact with
In fact, what this crisis is beginning to teach us is that we are only as safe as the least insured
person in America.
Further, we are the only major
country on earth that does not mandate paid family and medical leave. And
we’re seeing how that crisis is impacting where we are today.
As we speak, there are millions of workers — right now — who are
being told to go to work, yet they may be ill and should be staying home.
But these very same families
will face financial ruin if they don’t go to work. These are workers in the
restaurant industry, transportation industry, tourism, retail — in other words
the people who interact with the public every single day.
Right now, at a time when half of our people live paycheck to paycheck,
and at a time of massive wealth and income inequality, we must directly address the economic desperation facing a
huge number of Americans.
So we must finally pass a paid
family leave program in the United States to keep this virus from spreading
and to keep Americans healthy.
We must do it right now.
People should not be going to work when they are sick, it is unfair to
them, it is unfair to the people they are in contact with. And yet, that
reality exists, because we are the only major country on earth not to guarantee
paid family leave and sick time.
Finally, from a national
security perspective, it is
incomprehensible that we are dependent on China and other countries for masks,
for prescription drugs, for rubber gloves, and for key parts needed to make
advanced medical equipment like ventilators.
As a result of
globalization and our disastrous trade policies, we have been outsourcing
millions of jobs and factories overseas that have gutted our economy. Now we
are seeing another tragic and devastating result of those policies, as we find
ourselves dependent on other countries to provide the most essential things we
need to combat a pandemic and protect the lives of the people in our country.
Now trade is
a good thing, but it has to be based on common sense principles. It has to
be based on protecting American workers
and protecting our national security, making sure we are producing what we need
in this country in the event of a national crisis.
Now is the time to begin
bringing back production and manufacturing to the United States and enact fair
trade policies so that we are never in this position again.
Now here is the bottom line. As we are dealing with this crisis, we
need to listen to the scientists, to the
researchers, and to the medical professionals, not politicians.
We need to move quickly to prepare for the exponential increase of
cases we will be seeing here in our country.
But as we do that, we must begin thinking about how, as a society, we
can create a healthcare and economic system that is humane, that is compassionate,
and that works for all people, not just the wealthiest.
Now that is an issue that people have had to think about for a long
time, but I think in this moment of
crisis more and more people understand that we need fundamental changes to our
economy, and we need fundamental changes to our healthcare system.
Medicare for All is
ironically, considering that Americans and especially Democrats have indicated
that access to affordable healthcare is their number one priority, is the issue
that could sink the 2020 presidential candidacy of progressives Bernie Sanders and
Elizabeth Warren. Now Sanders is heralding a new study by epidemiologists in
the medical journal The Lancet which found that Medicare for All would save
Americans $450 billion and prevent 68,000 premature deaths a year. Here is
Sen. Bernie Sanders on Saturday applauded a new study published
today by a team of epidemiologists in the peer-reviewed medical journal The
Lancet, which found that Medicare for All will save Americans $450 billion
and prevent 68,000 unnecessary deaths each and every year.
“This study confirms that Medicare for All will save the American people
$450 billion on health care costs and will prevent 68,000 unnecessary deaths –
each and every year,” Sanders said. “In other words, guaranteeing health care
as a human right by creating a Medicare for All system will cost substantially
less than our current dysfunctional health care system. It will save working
class families thousands of dollars and it will prevent tens of thousands of
Americans from dying each year. While the CEOs in the pharmaceutical and health
insurance industry may not like it, we will end their greed and enact Medicare
for All when I am president.”
According to the study, by replacing premiums, deductibles, co-payments
and out-of-pocket costs with a progressive tax system, Medicare for All will
save the average family thousands of dollars each year and will provide
lower-income households the greatest relief.
Struggling hospitals serving low-income communities would be
particularly helped by Medicare for All by eliminating uncompensated care,
increasing Medicaid reimbursement rates to Medicare levels, and reducing
administrative overhead, according to the study.
The study also debunks several attacks on Medicare for All from the
private health care industry that made well over $100 billion in profits last
year. Doctors and hospitals would see large savings in cost and time from
streamlining our bloated and inefficient administrative and billing system,
allowing doctors to spend more time with patients, the study found.
The study is the latest in a series of studies conducted over the past
three decades that have found that guaranteeing universal health care through a
single-payer health care system would not only dramatically improve the health
and well-being of the American people, it would cost less than our current
dysfunctional health care system that puts profits over people.
Last month, another medical journal found
that 19 out of 22 studies done over the past 30 years concluded that moving to
a Medicare for All, single-payer health care system would cost less than our current
health care system in the first year, and all of the studies showed that it
would cost less within a decade of implementation.
The vigorous contest of
Democrats seeking the 2020 presidential nomination has produced excellent
policy proposals to address major issues. Clearly
responding to the backlash against her radical plan to finance Medicare for
All, Senator Elizabeth Warren released details of how she would reduce health
care costs in America, eliminate profiteering from the health care system, and
complete a full transition to Medicare for All in her first term. Warren has
already released her plan to fully finance Medicare
for All when it’s up and running without raising taxes on the middle class by
“Medicare for All is
the best way to guarantee health care to all Americans at the lowest cost. I
have a plan to pay for it without
raising taxes on middle class families, and the transition I’ve outlined here
will get us there within my first term as president. Together, along with
additional reforms like my plans to reduce black maternal mortality rates,
ensure rural health care,
protect reproductive rights,
support the Indian Health Service,
take care of our veterans, and
secure LGBTQ+ equality, we will
ensure that no family will ever go broke again from a medical diagnosis – and
that every American gets the excellent health care they deserve. “
This is from the Warren campaign:
On Day One, Elizabeth will use her executive authority
Reverse Donald Trump’s sabotage of Obamacare
Improve the Affordable Care Act, Medicare, and Medicaid.
Protect people with pre-existing conditions
Drastically lower pharmaceutical costs for millions of
families for drugs including Insulin, EpiPens, and drugs that save people from
The first bill Elizabeth will pass is her comprehensive set
of anti-corruption reforms which include ending lobbying as we know it and
knocking back the influence of Big Pharma and insurance companies.
And in her first 100 days, Elizabeth will use a
fast-track legislative process called budget reconciliation to create a true
Medicare for All option that will:
Include all the health care benefits of Medicare for All
described in the Medicare for All Act.
Be immediately free for nearly half of all Americans,
Children under the age of 18
Families making at or below 200% of the federal poverty
level (about $51,000 for a family of four)
Give every American over the age of 50 the choice to enter a
substantially improved Medicare program.
Consumer costs will automatically decline, so eventually
coverage under this plan will be free to everyone
Throughout her first term, she will fight for additional
health system reforms to save money and save lives–including a boost of
$100 billion in guaranteed, mandatory spending for new NIH
And no later than her third year in office, she will pass
legislation to complete the transition to Medicare for All: guaranteed
comprehensive health care for every American, long-term care, vision, dental,
and hearing, with a single payer to reduce costs and produce better health
Elizabeth’s plan can deliver an $11 trillion boost to
families who will never pay another premium, deductible, or co-pay.
And her plan will protect unions and make sure that there’s
support for workers affected by these changes.
My First Term Plan for Reducing Health Care Costs in
America and Transitioning to Medicare for All
I spent my career studying why families went broke. I rang
the alarm bells as the costs for necessities skyrocketed while wages remained
basically flat. And instead of helping, our government has become more tilted
in favor of the wealthy and the well-connected.
The squeeze on America’s families started long before the
election of Donald Trump, and I’m not running for president just to beat him.
I’m running for president to fix what’s broken in our economy and our
democracy. I have serious plans to raise wages for Americans.
And I have serious plans to reduce costs that are crushing our families, costs
like child care, education, housing – and health care.
The Affordable Care Act made massive strides in expanding
access to health insurance coverage, and we must defend Medicaid and the
Affordable Care Act against Republican attempts to rip health coverage away
from people. But it’s time for the next step.
The need is clear. Last year, 37 million American
adults didn’t fill a prescription because of costs. 36 million people
skipped a recommended test, treatment, or follow-up because of costs. 40 million people
didn’t go to a doctor to check out a health problem because of costs. 57 million people
had trouble covering their medical bills. An average family of four with
employer-sponsored insurance spent $12,378 on
employee premium contributions and out-of-pocket costs in 2018. And 87 million Americans
are either uninsured or underinsured.
Meanwhile, America spends about twice as much per
person on health care than the average among our peer countries while
delivering worse health outcomes than many of them. America is home to the best
health care providers in the world, and yet tens of millions of people can’t
get care because of cost, forcing families into impossible decisions. Whether
to sell the house or skip a round of chemo. Whether to cut up pills to save
money or buy groceries for the week. The way we pay for health care in the
United States is broken – and America’s families bear the burden.
We can fix this system. Medicare for All is the best way to
cover every person in America at the lowest possible cost because it eliminates
profiteering from our health care and leverages the power of the federal
government to rein in spending. Medicare for All will finally ensure that
Americans have access to all of the coverage they need – not just what
for-profit insurance companies are willing to cover – including vision, dental,
coverage for mental health and addiction services, physical therapy, and
long-term care for themselves and their loved ones. Medicare for All will mean
that health care is once again between patients and the doctors and nurses they
trust–without an insurance company in the middle to say “no” to access to the
care they need. I have put out a plan to fully
finance Medicare for All when it’s up and running without raising taxes on the
middle class by one penny.
But how do we get there?
Every serious proposal for Medicare for All contemplates
a significant transition period. Today, I’m announcing my plan to expand public
health care coverage, reduce costs, and improve the quality of care for every
family in America. My plan will be completed in my first term. It includes
dramatic actions to lower drug prices, a Medicare for All option available to
everyone that is more generous than any plan proposed by any other presidential
candidate, critical health system reforms to save money and save lives, and a
full transition to Medicare for All.
Here’s what I’ll do in my first 100 days:
I’ll pursue comprehensive anti-corruption reforms to
rein in health insurers and drug companies – reforms that are essential to make
any meaningful health care changes in Washington.
I’ll use the tools of the presidency to start improving
coverage and lowering costs – immediately. I’ll reverse Donald Trump’s
sabotage of health care, protect individuals with pre-existing conditions, take
on the big pharmaceutical companies to lower costs of key drugs for millions of
Americans, and improve the Affordable Care Act, Medicare, and Medicaid.
I will fight to pass fast-track budget reconciliation
legislation to create a true Medicare for All option that’s free for tens of
millions. I won’t hand Mitch McConnell a veto over my health care
agenda. Instead, I’ll give every American over the age of 50 the choice to
enter an improved Medicare program, and I’ll give every person in America the
choice to get coverage through a true Medicare for All option. Coverage under the
new Medicare for All option will be immediately free for children under the age
of 18 and for families making at or below 200% of the federal poverty level
(about $51,000 for a family of four). For all others, the cost will be modest,
and eventually, coverage under this plan will be free for everyone.
By the end of my first 100 days, we will have opened the
door for tens of millions of Americans to get high-quality Medicare for All
coverage at little or no cost. But I won’t stop there. Throughout my
term, I’ll fight for additional health system reforms to save money and save
lives – including a boost of $100 billion in guaranteed, mandatory spending for
new NIH research over the next ten years to radically improve basic
medical science and the development of new medical miracles for patients.
And finally, no later than my third year in office, I
will fight to pass legislation that would complete the transition to full
Medicare for All. By this point, the American people will have
experienced the full benefits of a true Medicare for All option, and they can
see for themselves how that experience stacks up against high-priced care that
requires them to fight tooth-and-nail against their insurance company. Per the
terms of the Medicare for All Act, supplemental private insurance that doesn’t
duplicate the benefits of Medicare for All would still be available. But by
avoiding duplicative insurance and integrating every American into the new
program, the American people would save trillions of dollars on health costs.
I will pursue each of these efforts in consultation with key
stakeholders, including patients, health care professionals, unions,
individuals with private insurance, hospitals, seniors currently on Medicare,
individuals with disabilities and other patients who use Medicaid, Tribal
Nations, and private insurance employees.
And at each step of my plan, millions more Americans will
pay less for health care. Millions more Americans will see the quality of their
current health coverage improve. And millions more Americans will have the
choice to ditch their private insurance and enter a high-quality public plan.
And, at each step, the changes in our health care system will be fully paid for
without raising taxes one penny on middle class families.
Every step in the coming fight to improve American health
care – like every other fight to improve
American health care – will be opposed by those powerful industries who profit
from our broken system.
But I’ll fight my heart out at each step of this process,
for one simple reason: I spent a lifetime learning about families going broke
from the high cost of health care. I’ve seen up close and personal how the
impact of a medical diagnosis can be devastating and how the resulting medical
bills can turn people’s lives upside down. When I’m President of the United
States, I’m going to do everything in my power to make sure that never happens
to another person again.
The First 100 Days of a Warren Administration
Donald Trump has spent nearly every day of his
administration trying to rip health coverage away from tens of millions of
Americans – first by legislation, then by regulation, and now by lawsuit. When
I take office, I will immediately work to reverse the damage he has done.
But I’ll do much more than that.
In my first 100 days, I will pick up every tool Donald
Trump has used to undermine Americans’ health care and do the opposite. While
Republicans tried to use fast-track budget reconciliation legislation to rip
away health insurance from millions of people with just 50 votes in the Senate,
I’ll use that tool in reverse – to improve our existing public insurance
programs, including by giving everyone 50 and older the option to join the
current Medicare program, and to create a true Medicare for All option that’s
free for millions and available to everyone.
But first, we must act to rein in Washington
Anti-Corruption Reforms to Rein in Health Industry
In Washington, money talks – and nowhere is that more
obvious than when it comes to health care. The health care industry spent $4.7
billion lobbying over the last decade. And health insurance and pharmaceutical
executives have been active in fundraising and donating to
candidates in the 2020 Democratic primary campaign as well.
Today, the principal lobbying groups for the drug companies,
health insurers, and hospitals have teamed up with dozens of other
health industry groups to create the Partnership for America’s Health Care
Future – a front group whose members spent a combined $143 million on
lobbying in 2018 and aims to torpedo
Medicare for All in this election. The Partnership has made clear that “whether
it’s called Medicare for All, Medicare buy-in, or the public option,
one-size-fits-all health care will never allow us to achieve [our]
Let’s not kid ourselves: every Democratic plan for
expanding public health care coverage is a challenge to these industries’
bottom lines – and every one of these plans is already being drowned in money
to make sure it never happens. Any candidate who believes more modest reforms
will avoid the wrath of industry is not paying attention.
If the next president has any intention of winning any
health care fight, they must start by reforming Washington. That’s why I’ve
released the biggest set of anti-corruption reforms since Watergate – and why
enacting these reforms is my top priority as president. Here are some of the
ways my plan would rein in the health care industry:
Close the revolving door. My plan will close the revolving door between
health care lobbyists and government, and end the practice of large
pharmaceutical companies like Novartis, United Health, Roche, Pfizer, and
Merck vacuuming up senior
government officials to try and monopolize government expertise, relationships,
and influence during a fight for health care reform.
Tax excessive lobbying. My plan will also
implement an excessive lobbying tax on
companies that spend more than $500,000 per year peddling influence – like
Pfizer, Amgen, Eli Lilly, Novartis, and Johnson & Johnson. Money from the
tax would be used to strengthen congressional support agencies, establish an
office to help the public participate in the rule-making process, and give our
government additional resources to fight back against an avalanche of corporate
End lobbyist bribery. My campaign finance plan
will ban all lobbyists – including health insurance and pharma lobbyists – from
trying to buy off politicians by donating or fundraising for their campaigns.
This will shut down the flow of millions of dollars in
Limit corporate spending to influence elections. My
plan bans all election-related spending from big corporations with a
significant portion of ownership from foreign entities. That would block major
industry players like UnitedHealth, Anthem, Humana, CVS Health, Pfizer,Amgen, AbbVie, Eli Lilly, Gilead, and Novartis – along
with any trade associations that receive money from them – from spending to
Crowd out corporate contributions with small dollar
donations. I support a constitutional amendment to get big money out
of politics. But until we enact it, my plan would institute a public financing
program that matches every dollar from small donations with six more dollars so
that congressional candidates are answering to the people who need health care
and affordable prescription drugs, rather than health insurance and
Passing these reforms will not be easy. But we should enact
as much of this agenda as possible, as quickly as possible. I will also use my
executive authority to begin implementing them wherever possible – including
through prioritizing DOJ and FEC enforcement against the corrupt
influence-peddling game. And I will voluntarily hold my administration to the
standards that I set in my anti-corruption plan so that all our federal
agencies, including those involved in health care, serve only the interests of
Money slithers through Washington like a snake. Any
candidate that cannot or will not identify this problem, call it out, and
pledge to make fixing it a top priority will not succeed in delivering any
public expansion of health care coverage – or any other major priority.
Immediate Executive Actions to Reduce Costs and Expand
Public Health Coverage.
There are a number of immediate steps a president can take
entirely by herself to lower drug prices, reduce costs, and improve Medicare,
Medicaid, and ACA access and affordability. I intend to take these steps within
my first 100 days.
Dramatically Lower Key Drug Prices
As drug companies benefit from taxpayer-funded R&D and
rake in billions of dollars in
profits, Americans are stuck footing the bill. The average American spends
roughly $1,220 per year on
pharmaceuticals – more than any comparable country. As president, I
will act immediately to lower the cost of prescription drugs, using every
available tool to bring pressure on the big drug companies. I’ll start by
taking immediate advantage of existing legal authorities to lower the cost of
several specific drugs that tens of millions of Americans rely on.
Some drug prices are high because pharmaceutical companies
jack up prices on single-source brand-name drugs, taking advantage of
government-granted patents and exclusivity periods to generate eye-popping
profits. Pharma giant Gilead, for example, launched its
Hepatitis C treatment Harvoni at $94,500-per-twelve week treatment – leaving as many as 85 percent of more than 3 million Americans with
Hepatitis C struggling to afford life-saving treatments.
The government has two
existing tools to combat price-gouging by brand-name drug companies, in
addition to tough antitrust enforcement against companies that abuse our patent
system and use every trick in the book to avoid competition. First, the
government can bypass patents (while providing “reasonable and entire
compensation” to patent holders) using “compulsory licensing authority.” The
Defense Department has used this authority as recently as 2014.
Second, under the march-in provisions of the Bayh-Dole Act, the
government can require re-licensing of certain patents developed with
government involvement when the contractor was not alleviating health or safety
needs. Just in this decade, federal research investments have contributed to
the development of hundreds of drugs –
all of which could be subject to this authority.
But new drugs aren’t the only unaffordable drugs on the
market. Even older, off-patent drugs can be expensive and inaccessible. Lack of
generic competition allows bad actors like Martin Shkreli to
boost the prices of decades-old drugs. Some of the biggest generic drug
companies in the country are now being sued by forty-four states for
price-fixing to keep profits high. Limited competition and other market
failures can also lead to drug shortages. Fortunately, the government can also
act to fix our broken generic drug market by stepping in to publicly
manufacture generic drugs, stopping price gouging in its tracks and bringing
On the first day of my presidency, I will use these tools
to drastically lower drug costs for essential medications – drugs with high
costs or limited supply that address critical public health needs. And
during my administration, we will use these tools to make other drugs
affordable as well.
Insulin was discovered nearly 100 years ago as
a treatment for diabetes – but today the drug is still unaffordable for too
many Americans. Eli Lilly’s brand-name insulin prices increased over 1,200% since the 1990s.
Insulin costs are too high because three drug companies –
Novo Nordisk, Sanofi, and Eli Lilly – dominate the market, jacking up prices.
Americans with diabetes are rationing insulin, and
taxpayers are spending billions on it
through Medicare and Medicaid. It’s obscene.
No American should die because they can’t afford a century-old drug that can
be profitably developed for
$72 a year. I will use existing authorities to contract for manufacture of
affordable insulin for all Americans.
EpiPens deliver life-saving doses of
epinephrine, a drug that reverses severe allergic reactions to things like
peanuts and bee stings. Though epinephrine has been around for over a century, the pens
that deliver it are protected by a patent that
limits competition. In 2016, this lack of competition allowed Mylan, EpiPen’s
manufacturer, to jack up EpiPen prices by 400%, leaving
families unable to afford this life-saving medication. Though cheaper versions
have recently entered
the market, prices remain out of reach for
many American families. As president, I will use existing authorities to
produce affordable epinephrine injectors for Americans (and especially
children) who need it.
Humira is a drug with anti-inflammatory effects used
to treat diseases like arthritis, psoriasis, and Crohn’s disease. It
is the best-selling prescription
drug in the world, treating millions. AbbVie, Humira’s manufacturer, has doubled the price
of Humira to more than $38,000 a year. In 2017, Medicaid and Medicare spent over
$4.2 billion on it – while AbbVie, its manufacturer, developed a “patent thicket” to
shield itself from biosimilar competition. In May 2019, the company
entered into a legal settlement preventing a competitor from entering the U.S.
market until 2023 – probably because prices went down by up to 80% once
biosimilars entered in Europe. My administration will pursue antitrust action
against AbbVie and other drug companies that pursue blatantly anti-competitive
behavior, and, if necessary, use compulsory licensing authority to facilitate
production, saving taxpayers billions.
Hepatitis C drugs like Harvoni are part of
a class described as
“miracle” drugs. Harvoni’s price tag – $94,500-per-treatment – left 85% of the more than 3 million Americans living
with Hepatitis C without a lifesaving medication, while taxpayers foot a $3.8billion bill. Although
the price has come down in recent years, it is still expensive for
too many. One estimate suggests that by
using compulsory licensing, the federal government could treat all Americans
with Hepatitis C for $4.5 billion – just 2% of the $234 billion it would
otherwise cost. That is exactly what I will do.
Truvada is a drug that – until recently –
was the only FDA-approved form
of pre-exposure prophylaxis, which can reduce the risk of HIV from sexual
activity by up to 99%. Truvada’s
manufacturer, Gilead, relied on $50 million in federal grants to
develop it, but today they rake in multi-billion dollar profits while Americans
struggle to afford it. The CDC estimates a million Americans could benefit from
Truvada, though only a fraction do today – largely due to to its $2,000-a-month price tag, which is nearly thirty times what
it costs in other countries. My administration will facilitate the production
of an affordable version – reducing HIV infections and saving taxpayers billions of dollars each
Antibiotics provide critical protection from
bacterial and fungal infections, and we are in desperate need of new
antibiotics to combat resistant infections. Every year, nearly
three million Americans contract antibiotic-resistant infections – and more
than 35,000 people die. But antibiotics don’t generate much money,
discouraging pharmaceutical investment, causing shortages, and contributing to price hikes.
Earlier this year, one biotech firm filed for bankruptcy after
marketing a new antibiotic, Zemdri, for less than a year. My administration
will identify antibiotics with high prices or limited supply and help produce
them to combat resistance and provide patients with the treatments they need.
Drug shortages leave doctors and patients
scrambling to access the treatments they need, forcing many to ration
medications and use inferior substitutes. Our nation’s hospitals, for example,
are currently experiencing a shortage of
vincristine – an off-patent drug that is the “backbone” of childhood cancer
treatment. The vincristine shortage began when Teva, one of its two suppliers,
made the “business decision” to stop manufacturing the drug. When I am
president, the government will track drugs in consistent shortage, like
vincristine, and I will use our administrative authority to ensure we have
Finally, I will also direct the government to study whether
other essential medicines, including breakthrough drugs for cancer or high-cost
drugs for rare diseases, might also be subject to these interventions because
they are being sold at prices that inappropriately limit patient
Make Mental Health and Substance Use Treatment A
The law currently requires health insurers to provide mental
health and substance use disorder benefits in parity with physical health benefits.
But in 2018, less than half of
people with mental illness received treatment and less than a fifth of people
who needed substance use treatment actually received it. As
president, I will launch a full-scale effort to enforce these requirements –
with coordinated actions by the IRS, Centers for Medicare and Medicaid
Services, and Department of Labor to make sure health plans actually provide
mental health treatment in the same way they provide other treatment.
Reverse Trump’s Sabotage
I will reverse the Trump administration’s actions that have
undermined health care in America. Key steps include:
Protecting coverage for people with pre-existing
conditions. The Trump administration has abandoned its duty
to defend current laws in court, cheering on efforts to destroy protections for
pre-existing conditions, insurance coverage for dependents until they’re 26,
and the other critical Affordable Care Act benefits. In a Warren
administration, the Department of Justice will defend this law. And we will
close the loopholes created by the Trump administration, using 1332 waivers,
that could allow states to steer healthy people toward parallel, unregulated
markets for junk health plans. This will shut down a stealth attack on people
with pre-existing conditions who would see their premiums substantially
increase as healthier people leave the marketplace.
Banning junk health plans. The Trump
administration has expanded the use of
junk health insurance plans as an alternative to comprehensive health plans
that meet the standards of the ACA. These plans cover few benefits,
discriminate against people with pre-existing conditions, and increase costs
for everyone else. And in some cases they direct as much as 50 percent of
patient premiums to administrative expenses or profit. I will ban junk plans.
Expanding ACA enrollment. I’ll re-fund the
Affordable Care Act programs that help people enroll in ACA coverage, programs
that have been gutted by the Trump administration.
Expanding premium tax credits. I will reverse
the Trump administration rule that artificially reduced premium tax credits for
many people, making coverage less affordable –
and instead will expand these credits.
Rolling back Trump’s sabotage of Medicaid. I’ll
reverse the Trump administration’s harmful Medicaid policies that take coverage
away from low-income individuals and families. I’ll prohibit restrictive and
ineffective policies like work requirements – which have already booted 18,000 people in
Arkansas out of the program – as well as enrollment caps, premiums, drug
testing, and limits on retroactive eligibility that can prevent bankruptcy.
Restoring non-discrimination protections in health
care. I will immediately reverse the Trump administration’s
terrible proposed rule permitting
health plans and health providers to discriminate against women, LGBTQ+ people,
individuals with limited English proficiency, and others.
Ending the Trump administration’s assault on reproductive
care. I’ll roll back the Trump administration’s domestic and global
gag rules, which deny Title X and USAID funding to health care providers who
provide abortion care or even explain where and how patients can access safe,
legal abortions. And I will overturn the Trump administration’s embattled proposed rule to
roll back mandatory contraceptive coverage.
Strengthen the Affordable Care Act
As president I will use administrative tools to strengthen
the ACA to reduce costs for families and expand eligibility. Key steps include:
Stop families from being kicked out of affordable
coverage. Because of something called the “family glitch,” an
entire family can lose access to tax credits that would help them buy health
coverage if one parent is offered individual coverage with a premium less than
9.86% of their family income. I’ll work to make sure that a family’s access to
tax credits is based on the affordability of coverage for the whole family –
not just one individual – so families who don’t actually have access to
affordable alternatives don’t lose their ACA tax credits.
Expand eligibility to all legally present
individuals. I’ll also work to extend eligibility for ACA tax credits
to all people who are legally present, including those eligible for the
Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.
Put money back in workers’ pockets. The
Affordable Care Act requires insurance
companies to spend at least 80 percent of total premium contributions on health
care claims (and, in many cases, at least 85 percent), leaving the rest to be
spent on plan administration, marketing, and profit. Insurers who waste money
must issue rebates – but too often, these are returned to employers who don’t pass
on the savings to their employees. Insurance companies are expected to pay
out $1.3 billion in
rebates in 2019, with employers in the small-group market receiving an average
rebate of $1,190 and employers in the large-group market receiving an average
rebate of $10,660. My plan will require employers to pass along the full value
of the rebate directly to employees.
As president I will use administrative tools to strengthen
Expand Dental Benefits. The Medicare statute
prohibits coverage of dental care that is unrelated to other medical care,
unless it is medically necessary. This has been interpreted to largely exclude
any oral health care. As a result, almost two-thirds of
Medicare beneficiaries, or nearly 37 million people, lack access to dental
benefits. I will use my administrative authority to clearly expand the
medically necessary dental services Medicare can provide, improving the health
of millions of Medicare beneficiaries.
Stop private Medicare Advantage plans from bilking
taxpayers. Roughly one-third of Medicare beneficiaries get coverage
through a private Medicare Advantage plan. Medicare payments to these plans for
each enrollee are supposed to reflect the cost of covering that person through
traditional Medicare, but overwhelmingevidence shows that
these private plans make their enrollees appear sicker on paper than they
actually are to earn inflated payments at the expense of taxpayers. Some suggest that this
adds $100 billion or more to Medicare spending over ten years. My
administration will put an end to this fraud.
As president I will use administrative tools to strengthen
Medicaid and potentially allow millions more to access the program.
Use waiver authority to increase Medicaid eligibility. With
the approval of the federal government, states can use Section 1115
demonstration waivers to expand coverage to people who aren’t otherwise
eligible for Medicaid. Currently, however, states can only obtain these waivers
if projected federal spending under the new program will not be higher than without the
waiver. While I pursue legislative reforms to expand coverage, I’ll
also change this administrative restriction to allow these demonstrations to
fulfill their promise of providing affordable health coverage, including
working with states that want to expand Medicaid to uninsured individuals and
families above the statutory upper limit of Medicaid (138% of the poverty
level). Any state that chooses to expand in this way will not be penalized for
doing so when full Medicare for All comes online.
Streamlining eligibility and enrollment. Far too
many people miss out on Medicaid coverage because of red tape. Some states take
coverage away if someone misses just one piece of mail or forgets to notify the
state within 10 days of a change in income. These kinds of harsh policies help
explain why more than a million children “disappeared” from the
Medicaid and CHIP programs in the past year. I will eliminate these kinds of
unfair practices, and instead work with states to make it easier for everyone –
families, children, and people with disabilities – to maintain this essential
Ensuring access to care for beneficiaries in managed care
plans. I’ll roll back the Trump administration’s proposed changes to
rules regulating Medicaid managed care plans, which would dilute important
standards, such as requiring health plans to maintain adequate provider
networks guaranteeing access to care for Medicaid enrollees.
Antitrust Enforcement for Hospitals and Health
For years, both horizontal
mergers (where hospitals purchase other hospitals) and vertical mergers (where
hospitals acquire physician practices) have produced greater hospital and
health system consolidation, contributing to the skyrocketing costs of health
care. Today, “not a single
highly competitive hospital market remains in any region of the United
States.” Study after studyshowsthat mergers mean higher prices, lower quality,
and increased inequality due to the growing wage gap between
hospital CEOs and everyone else. Bringing down the cost of health care means
enforcing competition in these markets.
As president, I will appoint aggressive antitrust enforcers
who recognize the problems with hospital and health system consolidation to the
Department of Justice and Federal Trade Commission. My administration will also
conduct retrospective reviews of significant new mergers, and break up mergers
that should never have taken place.
Bringing Health Records into the 21st Century
Congress spent $36 billion to get
every doctor in America using electronic health records, but we still do not have adequate digital
information flow in health care – in part because two big
companies make up about 85% of the market for
medical records at big hospitals. As they attempt to capture more of the
market, these companies are making it harder for systems to communicate with each other. My
administration will ramp up the enforcement against information blocking by big
hospital systems and health IT companies, and I will appoint leaders to the FTC
and DOJ who will conduct a rigorous antitrust investigation of the health
records market, especially in the hospital space.
Elevating the Voices of Workers in the Transition to
Medicare for All
The fundamental goal of my presidency will be returning
power to working people. Medicare for All accomplishes that by giving every
American high-quality coverage and freeing them from relying on the whims of
their employers or private insurance companies for the health care they need.
My plan to transition to Medicare for All will also put working people first,
and elevate their voices at each stage of the process.
My plan seeks to build on the achievements of generations of
working people and their unions who have fought for and won health care. I view
good health plans negotiated through collective bargaining as a positive
achievement for working people, and I will seek as part of the first phase of
my plan the elimination of the excise tax on those plans.
In my first weeks in office, I will issue an Executive Order
creating a commission of workers (including health care workers), union
representatives, and union benefit managers that I will consult at every stage
of the transition process. The commission will be responsible for providing
advice on each element of the transition to Medicare for All, including, at a
Ensuring workforce readiness and adequate access to care
across all provider types.
Determining national standards of coverage and benefits,
including long-term care.
Learning from successful existing non-profit health care
administrators and integrating them into the new Medicare for All system.
Ensuring a living wage for all health care workers and that
savings generated within the new system by hospitals and other health care
employers are shared fairly with all of the workers in the health care system.
Ensuring that workers are able to use the collective
bargaining process during the transition period and under the new Medicare for
All system to ensure both effective health outcomes and to ensure that savings
generated by the new system are fairly shared with workers.
In administering the Medicare for All system, my
administration will also rely on unions’ expertise on designing good benefits
for workers and helping workers navigate our health care system. During the
transition to Medicare for All – and even when we ultimately reach a full
Medicare for All system – my administration will seek to partner with
collectively bargained non-profit health care administrators. For example, we
will draw upon their expertise in helping workers choose providers, and look
for opportunities to enter into contracts with the administrators of unions’ collectively
bargained health plans to provide these services. And my plan will guarantee
that union-sponsored clinics are included within the Medicare for All system
and will continue serving their members.
Finally, Medicare for All will be an enormous boost to
the economy, lifting a weight off of both workers and businesses and creating
good new jobs, including in administering health care benefits. Still, the
Medicare for All legislation includes billions of dollars to provide assistance
to workers who may be affected by the transition to Medicare for All, and I
plan on consulting with the new worker commission and other affected parties to
ensure that money is spent as effectively as possible. In the past, transition
assistance programs have been underfunded and have not been as responsive as
they should have been to the actual needs of workers. That will not be the case
in my administration. No worker will be left behind.
Legislation to Expand Medicare and Create a True Medicare
for All Option
In 2017, Senate Republicans came within one vote of
shredding the Affordable Care Act and taking health care coverage away from
more than 20 million people. How did they get so close? By using a fast-track
legislative process called budget reconciliation, which only requires 50 votes
in the Senate to pass laws with major budgetary impacts. President Obama also
used this process to secure final passage of the Affordable Care Act.
I am a strong supporter of eliminating the filibuster, which
I believe is essential to preventing right-wing Senators who function as wholly
owned subsidiaries of major American industries from blocking real legislative
change in America. Any candidate for president who does not support this change
should acknowledge the extreme difficulty of enacting their preferred
legislative agenda. But I’m not going to wait for this to happen to start
improving health care – and I’m not going to give Mitch McConnell or the
Republicans a veto over my entire health care agenda.
That’s why, within my first 100 days, I will pass my own
fast-track budget reconciliation legislation to enact a substantial portion of
my Medicare for All agenda – including establishing a true Medicare for All
option that’s free for millions and affordable for everyone.
A True Medicare for All Option. There are many
proposals that call themselves a Medicare for All “public option” – but most of
them lack the financing to actually allow everyone in America to choose true
Medicare for All coverage. As a result, these proposals create the illusion of
choice, when in reality they offer tens of millions of Americans the decision
between unaffordable private insurance and unaffordable public insurance. A
choice between two bad options isn’t a choice at all.
My approach is different.
Because I have identified trillions in revenue to finance a
fully functioning Medicare for All system – without raising taxes on the middle
class by one penny – I can also fund a true Medicare for All option. The plan
will be administered by Medicare and offered on ACA exchanges. Here are its key
Benefits. Unlike public option plans, the
benefits of the true Medicare for All option will match those in the Medicare
for All Act. This includes truly comprehensive coverage for primary and
preventive services, pediatric care, emergency services and transportation,
vision, dental, audio, long-term care, mental health and substance use, and
Immediate Free Coverage for Millions. This plan
will immediately offer coverage at no cost to every kid under the age of 18 and
anybody making at or below 200% of the federal poverty level (about $51,000 for
a family of four) – including individuals who would currently be on Medicaid,
but live in states that refused to expand their programs.
Free, Identical Coverage for Medicaid
Beneficiaries. States will be encouraged to begin paying a
maintenance-of-effort to the Medicare for All option in exchange for moving
their Medicaid populations into this plan and getting out of the business of
administering health insurance. For states that elect to maintain their
Medicaid programs, Medicaid premiums and cost sharing will be eliminated, and
we will provide wraparound benefits for any Medicare for All option benefits
not covered by a state’s program to ensure that these individuals have the same
free coverage as Medicaid-eligible people in the Medicare for All option.
Eventual Free Coverage for Everyone. This plan
will begin as high-quality public insurance that covers 90% of costs and allows
people to utilize improved ACA subsidies to purchase coverage and reduce cost
sharing. There will be no premiums for kids under 18 and people at or below
200% of the federal poverty level. For individuals above 200% FPL, premiums
will gradually scale as a percentage of income and are capped at 5.0% of their
income. Starting in year one, the plan will not have a deductible — meaning
everyone gets first dollar coverage, and cost sharing will be zero for people
at or below 200% FPL. Cost sharing will scale modestly for individuals at or
above that level, with caps on out-of-pocket costs. In subsequent years,
premiums and cost sharing for all participants in this plan will gradually
decrease to zero.
Reducing Drug Prices. The Medicare for All
option will have the ability to negotiate for prescription drugs using the
mechanisms I’ve previously outlined,
helping to drive down costs for patients.
Automatic Enrollment. Anyone who is uninsured or
eligible for free insurance on day one, excluding individuals who are over 50
and eligible for expanded coverage under existing Medicare, will be
automatically enrolled in the Medicare for All option. Individuals who prefer
other coverage can decline enrollment.
Employee Choice. Workers with employer coverage
can opt into the Medicare for All option, at which point their employer will
pay an appropriate fee to the government to maintain their responsibility for
providing employee coverage. In addition, unions can negotiate to include a
move to the Medicare for All option via collective bargaining during the
transition period, with unionized employers paying a discounted contribution to
the extent that they pass the savings on to workers in the form of increased
wages, pensions, or other collectively-bargained benefits. This will support
unions and ensure that the savings from Medicare for All are passed on to
workers in full, not pocketed by the employer.
Provider Reimbursement and Cost Control. I
have identified cost
reforms that would save our health system trillions of dollars when implemented
in a full Medicare for All system. The more limited leverage of a Medicare for
All option plan will accordingly limit its ability to achieve these savings –
but as more individuals join, this leverage will increase and costs will go
down. Provider reimbursement for this plan will start above current Medicare
rates for all providers, and be reduced every year as providers’ administrative
and delivery costs decrease until they begin to approach the targets in my
Medicare for All plan. The size of these adjustments will be governed by
overall plan size and the progress of provider adjustment to new, lower
Expand and Improve Existing Medicare for Everyone Over
50. In addition to the Medicare for All option, any person over the
age of 50 will be eligible for expanded coverage under the existing Medicare
program, whose infrastructure will allow it to absorb new beneficiaries more
quickly. The expanded Medicare program will be improved in the following
Benefits. To the greatest extent possible,
critical benefits like audio, vision, full dental coverage, and long-term care
benefits will be added to Medicare, and we will legislate full parity for
mental health and substance use services.
Eventual Free Coverage for Everyone. Identical
to the Medicare program, enrollees will pay premiums in Part B and D, with a
$300 cap on drug costs in Part D. Plugging a huge hole in the current Medicare
program, out-of-pocket costs will be capped at $1,500 per year across Parts A,
B, and D, eliminating deductibles and reducing cost sharing. In subsequent
years, premiums and cost sharing will gradually decrease to zero.
Employee Choice. Identical to the Medicare for
All option, workers 50-64 can opt into expanded Medicare, at which point their
employer will pay an appropriate fee to the government to maintain their
responsibility for providing employee coverage.
Reducing Drug Prices. The expanded Medicare
program will receive the ability to negotiate for prescription drugs using the
mechanisms I’ve previously outlined,
helping to drive down costs for patients. And we will create a publicly run
prescription drug plan that is benchmarked off the best current Part D
Automatic Enrollment. Every person without
health insurance over the age of 50 will be automatically enrolled in the
expanded existing Medicare program.
Provider Reimbursement and Cost Control. Provider
reimbursement for new beneficiaries will start above current Medicare rates for
all providers, and be reduced every year as providers’ administrative and
delivery costs decrease until they begin to approach the targets in my Medicare
for All plan. It will be a new condition of participation that providers who
take Medicare or other federally subsidized insurance also take the Medicare
for All option. We will also adopt common sense reforms to bring down bloated
reimbursement rates, including reforms around post-acute care, bundled
payments, and site neutral payments.
Improving the Affordable Care Act. My reforms
will also strengthen Affordable Care Act plans – including the new Medicare for
All option – by making the following changes:
Expand Tax Credit Eligibility. We will lift the
upper limit on eligibility for Premium Tax Credits, allowing people over 400%
of the federal poverty level to purchase subsidized coverage and greatly
increasing the number of people who receive subsidies.
Employee Choice. We will allow any person or
family to receive ACA tax credits and opt into ACA coverage, regardless of
whether they have an offer of employer coverage. If an individual currently
enrolled in qualifying employer coverage moves into an ACA plan, their employer
will pay an appropriate fee to the government to maintain their responsibility
for providing employee coverage.
Lower Costs. Right now, people may pay up to 9.86% of their
income before they get subsidies. Under my plan, this cap would be lowered –
and to make sure those tax credits cover more, we will benchmark them to more
generous “gold” plans in the Marketplace. And we will increase eligibility for
cost sharing reductions, ensuring that more individuals can get into an
affordable exchange plan immediately.
Eliminate the Penalty for Getting a Raise. Right
now, if someone’s income goes up, they can be forced to repay thousands of
dollars in back premiums. We will change this and base tax credits on the
previous year’s income. And if someone’s income goes down, they will get the
higher subsidy for that year.
State Single-Payer Innovation Waivers. To help
states try out different payer arrangements and pilot programs, we will allow
states to receive passthrough funding to expand or improve coverage via the
ACA’s Section 1332 waivers. Combined with Medicaid waivers, these changes will
allow interested states to start experimenting immediately with consolidating
public payers and move towards a single-payer system.
Additional Financing. My plan to pay for
Medicare for All identifies $20.5 trillion in new revenue, including an
Employer Medicare Contribution, which will cover the long-term, steady-state
cost of a fully functioning Medicare for All system. The cost of this
intermediate proposal will be lower. Any revenue needed to meet the
requirements of fast-track budget reconciliation will be enacted as part of
this legislation from the financing options that I have already proposed.
Additional Health System Reforms to Save Money and Lives
After pursuing administrative changes, expanding existing
Medicare, and creating a true Medicare for All option, every person in the
United States will be able to choose free or low-cost public insurance. Tens of
millions will likely do so. But we can’t stop there. We must pursue additional
reforms to our health system to save money and save lives. Some of my
Investing in Medical Miracles. Many medical
breakthroughs stem from federal investments in
science – but in 2018, 43,763 out of 54,834 research
project grant applications to the National Institutes of Health (NIH) were
rejected. We will boost medical research by investing an additional $100
billion in guaranteed, mandatory spending in the NIH over ten years, split
between basic science and the creation of a new National Institute for Drug
Development that will help take the basic research from the other parts of NIH
and turn it into real drugs that patients can use. We will prioritize
treatments that are uninteresting to big pharmaceutical companies but could
save millions of American dollars and lives. Any drugs that come out of this
research and to American consumers can be sold abroad, with the proceeds
reinvested to fund future breakthrough drug development. And by enacting my
Affordable Drug Manufacturing Act, the government can manufacture generic drugs
that are not available due to cost or shortage.
Ending the Opioid Epidemic. The opioid epidemic
is a public health emergency. In 2017, life expectancy in the United States
dropped for the third year in a row, driven in large part by deaths from drug
overdoses. We will enact my legislation, the CARE Act, to invest $100 billion
in federal funding over the next ten years in states and communities to fight
this crisis – providing resources directly to first responders, public health
departments, and communities on the front lines of this crisis.
Improved Administration. To cut down on time
wasted on paperwork, we will create single standardized forms for things like
prior authorizations and appeals processes to be used by all insurers (private
and public), and we will establish uniform medical billing for insurers and
All-Payer Claims Database. Right now, there are so
many middlemen in health care that no one knows for certain how much we pay for
different services across the whole system. A centralized repository of
de-identified claims data will help the government, researchers, and the market
better understand exactly what we pay for health care and what kind of quality
it gets us. Demystifying what we pay for what we get will be a critical part of
ensuring fair reimbursement under Medicare for All.
Antitrust Enforcement. In addition to
administrative actions to rein in anti-competitive hospital and electronic
medical record practices, we’ll also ban non-compete and no-poach agreements
and class action waivers across the board, while making it easier for private
parties to sue to prevent anti-competitive actions. I’ll work with states to
repeal Certificate of Public Advantage, or COPA, statutes
that shield health care
organizations from federal antitrust review and can lead to the
creation of large monopolies with little to no oversight. And I’ll also push to
ensure our antitrust laws apply to all health care mergers.
Ending Surprise Billing. Imagine being a woman
who schedules her baby’s delivery with her obstetrician at an in-network
hospital, but it turns out that the anesthesiologist administering the epidural
isn’t in-network. Even though she had no choice – and probably had no idea that
doctor was out-of-network – under the current system she gets hit with a huge
bill. We will end the practice of surprise billing by requiring that
services from out-of-network doctors within in-network hospitals, in addition
to ambulances or out-of-network hospitals during emergency care, be treated as
in-network and paid either prevailing in-network rates or 125% of the Medicare
reimbursement rate, whichever is lower.
Preventing Provider Shortages. With more people
seeking the care they need, it will be essential to increase the number of
providers. I will make these
critical investments in our clinicians, including by dramatically scaling up
apprenticeship programs to build a health care workforce rooted in the
community. I will lift the cap on residency placements, allowing 15,000 new
clinicians to enter the workforce. I will expand the National Health Service
Corps and Indian Health Service loan repayment program to allow more health
professionals – including physicians, physician assistants, registered nurses,
nurse practitioners, and other licensed practitioners – to practice in
underserved communities. I will also provide grants to states that expand
scope-of-practice to allow more non-physicians to practice primary care. And I
will push to close the
mental health provider gap in schools.
Completing the Transition to Medicare For All
By pursuing these changes, we will provide every person in
America with the option of choosing public coverage that matches the full
benefits of Medicare for All. Given the quality of the public alternatives,
millions are likely to move out of private insurance as quickly as
No later than my third year in office, at which point the
number of individuals voluntarily remaining in private insurance would likely
be quite low, I will fight to pass legislation to complete the transition to
the Medicare for All system defined by the Medicare for All Act by the end of
my first term in office.
Moving to this system would mean integrating everyone into a
unified system with zero premiums, copays, and deductibles. Senator Sanders’s
Medicare for All Act allows for supplemental private insurance to cover
services that are not duplicative of the coverage in Medicare for All; for
unions that seek specialized wraparound coverage and individuals with
specialized needs, a private market could still exist. In addition, we can
allow private employer coverage that reflects the outcome of a collective
bargaining agreement to be grandfathered into the new system to ensure that
these workers receive the full benefit of their bargain before moving to the
new system. But the point of Medicare for All is to cut out the middleman.
Every successful effort to move the United States to create
and expand new social programs – like Social Security and Medicare and Medicaid –
has required multiple steps. In fact, every credible Medicare for All proposal
has a significant, multi-step transition built in. That’s why it’s important to
have both short-term goals and long-term goals to guide the process and to
deliver concrete improvements to people’s lives at every stage.
I believe the next president must do everything she can
within one presidential term to complete the transition to Medicare for All. My
plan will reduce the financial and political power of the insurance companies –
as well as their ability to frighten the American people – by implementing
reforms immediately and demonstrating at each phase that true Medicare for All
coverage is better than their private options. I believe this approach gives us
our best chance to succeed.
Why do we need to transition to Medicare for All if a robust
Medicare for All option is available to everyone? The answer is simple and
blunt: cost and outcomes. Today, up to 30% of
current health spending is driven by the costs of filling out different
insurance forms and following different claims processes and fighting with
insurance companies over what is and is not covered. I have demonstrated how a
full Medicare for All system can use its leverage to wring trillions of dollars
in waste out of our system while delivering smarter care – and I’ve made clear exactly
how I would do it. The experience of other countries shows that this system is
the cheapest and most efficient way to deliver high-quality health care. As
long as duplicative private coverage exists, we will limit our ability to make
health care delivery more effective and affordable – and the ability of private
middlemen to abuse patients will remain.
Medicare for All will deliver an $11 trillion boost to
American families who will never pay another premium, co-pay, or deductible.
That’s like giving the average working family in America a $12,000 raise. This
final legislation will put a choice before Congress – maintain a two-tiered
system where private insurers can continue to profit from being the middlemen
between patients and doctors, getting rich by denying care – or give everybody
Medicare for All to capture the full value of trillions of dollars in savings
in health care spending. I believe that the American people will demand
Congress make the right choice.
During the Presidents Week recess when Congressmembers are supposed to meet with constituents, I attended two jam-packed rallies focused on saving Obamacare (this followed the rallies held coast-to-coast in the days before the inauguration). In each of these, desperate people (dismissed by Republicans as “paid professional agitators”) stood up to preserve the Affordable Care Act.
While not perfect (after all, how could it be when Obama had to thread a ridiculously tiny needle to get anything passed the Republican wall of opposition), Obamacare has brought coverage to 20 million previously uninsured people, reducing the percentage of uninsured Americans to a historic low of 8.6%, allowed children up to age 26 stay on their parents’ plan, mandated coverage for preexisting conditions, ended lifetime caps, capped the amount of premium that for-profit insurance pocketed for non-patient purposes at 20% (versus 97% that Medicare spends on patient care ), instituted basic standards of coverage that included, for the first time, wellness visits, coverage for certain regular tests (mammograms, colonoscopy).
The secret sauce? Mandating coverage or else pay a penalty, but if you didn’t earn enough to pay, you would be able to get subsidies from the government Why? Because the whole thing revolved around the idea that young and healthy people would pay into the system, bringing down the insurance premium for everyone. And every policy would cover certain basics, like child birth and prostate cancer, mammogram and colonscopy (ending the higher premiums for a woman).
And it was working: in the first place because if people can go to their doctors earlier, get diagnostic tests and catch illnesses earlier, they are less expensive to treat, let alone reduce the amount of suffering while increasing a person’s productivity during their prime years.
Let’s review: before Obamacare, nearly 50 million people were without health insurance and tens of thousands of families were losing health insurance as they were losing their jobs (and homes) to the Bush/Cheney Great Recession. 20,000 people a year were dying needlessly simply for lack of access to affordable health care.
And, for years, for-profit insurance companies, with a 33% margin, were raising premiums at three to five times the CPI each year; routinely dropping doctors, denying coverage, throwing people off for “preexisting conditions.” Companies were dropping health benefits for employees.
“Preexisting condition? Life is a preexisting condition, resulting from sexual contact and will invariable end in death,” Dr Martha Livingstone, vice chair of Physicians for a National Health Program, told an overflow audience at the Universalist Unitarian Church in Huntington. “We all have a preexisting condition. We all need health care because we are human beings. How we will get it?”
Congressman Tom Suozzi, who stood in front of SRO town hall at the JCC in Plainview, and again at the Huntington health care rally, and back in January, with Kathleen Rice, at a massive health care rally, said about Obamacare, “Mend it. Don’t End it.”
The key problems with Obamacare, people complained, are high deductibles (for the cheapest plans), that premiums rose significantly (after rising at the slowest rate of increase in 50 years and mainly because of the Republican sabotage that prevented the full implementation), and that doctors, and even insurers would change (which happened before, as well).
What Republicans are proposing now, though, doesn’t “fix” any of these problems. In essence, the Republican plan favors the healthy and the wealthy, shifting the burden of payment while providing fewer benefits onto working people, low-income people and the elderly, while – and here is the added bonus – exploding the budget deficit. Millions will lose insurance; costs will skyrocket, and Republicans are ramming it through without “scoring” its impact on the budget or people.
They concocted the bill in secret, are ramming it through without proper analysis, scrutiny or debate, or even “scoring” by the Congressional Budget Office, and here’s the added subterfuge: they are repealing the elements in stages: by 2018 for the first parts (to minimize impact on midterm elections) and by 2020 for the complete repeal (to ease the way for Trump’s reelection).
The Republican plan begins with ending that “freedom killing” mandate, which is the hinge upon which access to affordable health care rests, because by requiring everyone – young, healthy people who might otherwise defray health insurance costs – to purchase, the pool is large enough to keep premiums down for everyone, while covering everything from child birth to mental health to pre-existing conditions.
Instead of a mandate, enforced with a modest tax penalty, to insure that enough healthy, young people are in the pool to lower everyone’s premium while expanding care and access even if there is a pre-existing condition, the Republican plan provides for a 30% “surcharge” if you have let insurance lapse more than 60 days. So if you have lost your job, and therefore your health insurance, and can’t pay, you will only get further and further behind.
The other prime elements:
Instead of subsidies for people who don’t earn enough to purchase health insurance, Republicans want to give tax credits, which only are beneficial if you earn enough to pay. What is more, they want tax credits not to be based on income at all, but on age, so a 60 year old would get $4000 in tax credits while a 30-year old minimum-wage worker would get $2000 –still only a fraction of the cost of a minimally basic health plan – up to $14,000 in credits for a family.
The other big idea to “afford” health care is the Health Savings Account, which Republicans have wanted forever – another scheme to bolster Wall Street donors, and provide yet another device for the wealthiest to shield income from tax. The flaw is that you need to have enough money to stash away in HSA to begin with. But suppose you get a cancer diagnosis or are hit by a car before you have accumulated sufficient funds? Or you contract some illness that blows through your HSA? Tough luck.
The GOP plan would end the Medicaid expansion – when the federal government paid 90% instead of 50% of the state’s Medicaid cost — which will result in 10 million people in 31 states losing health insurance.
Another keystone of the GOP health care con is to give states block grants – a fixed amount that has no correlation to actual need. The interesting thing is that Governors tend not to use the money for its purpose (health care for the poorest residents), but for pet priorities like lowering taxes for businesses.
The Republicans say they want to shift “power” back to the states. But states always had the ability, before, to devise their own health care plan, as long as it met basic standards of the Affordable Care Act. What states want is the ability –and the excuse – not to provide universal coverage.
Republicans will claim that their plan will continue to cover pre-existing conditions. But their idea is to stick people with pre-existing conditions into high-risk pools, which could put the cost out of reach.
Indeed, no one has bothered to mention that Obamacare capped the amount that the for-profit insurance companies could charge for non-patient services – it was at 33% (versus a 3% administrative budget for Medicare) before the ACA, which required 80% of the premium to go to patient services. That is out the window.
An added zinger, just for good, is that the plan ends federal funding for Planned Parenthood. Gotcha!
Trump proposes to cure the cost problem making it possible to buy insurance across state lines, without saying how that would actually reduce the cost of the premium, under the pretext that “competition” will lower the cost. Except that the same few companies dominate the market in most states, and like airlines, can just raise premiums as they like. Also, this would negate New York’s ability to set standards on insurance companies. And wouldn’t it also mean that New Yorkers would pay the higher premium for Southern obesity?
Most of the changes are phased in – they don’t get implemented until after the 2018 midterm elections, and Obamacare is not completely repealed until after the 2020 elections.
But what Republicans claim is the “unsustainability” of Obamacare is the result of Republicans efforts to sabotage it from day 1. And the first thing that Trump did? Ended enforcement of the mandate and issue a proposal to cut next year’s enrollment period in half allow insurance companies to easily raise deductibles, limit patients’ choice of doctors, and restrict others from getting covered mid-year — even if they have a child or lose their employer-based insurance. Insurance companies are pulling out because the Republicans are intentionally making it impossible for them to do business.
By immediately repealing the mandate as well as the taxes that support Obamacare, it is truly unsustainable and more insurance companies that are planning premium rates and participation now, will either pull out or hike up premiums to ridiculous levels because essentially, they are only insuring sick, older people.
The taxes that pay for the Obamacare health care benefits are also being immediately repealed which will explode the budget deficit, which somehow, Republicans only care about when a Democrat is in the Oval office.
And here is the stunner: the Republicans, who have worked this up in secret, without any debate or public commentary (they dismiss the millions who have come out to town halls, rallies and protests as “paid professional agitators” instead of people with real concerns), plan to shove the legislation through without even scoring by the Congressional Budget Office. They can’t say how much health insurance will cost in TrumpWorld, or how many people will wind up losing health insurance or who wind up being woefully uninsured because they can only afford a minimal policy that doesn’t actually cover anything. They can’t say how many more employers (only about half were offering health insurance benefits before ACA) will simply stop providing any health care benefit at all. That’s Freedom! That’s Choice!
“Do we want people to have socialized medicine or individual accountability, personal choice, where businesses decide?” Congressman Chris Collins (R-NY) asked hypothetically.
Obamacare did not just benefit the 30 million people who were able to afford health insurance, 20 million of them for the first time. It benefited every American who also has insurance, and every American who has Medicare, as well. And remember the complaints with Obamacare? That deductibles were too high; premiums went up significantly from the first year (except they had traditionally gone up at 3 to 5 times the CPI, without any limits). That doctors left the plan or insurance companies changed the plan to exited the exchanges? The Republican plan does not improve any of this. Instead, it returns health care to the total control of for-profit companies, who can raise premiums at will, drop doctors at will, set lifetime caps or refuse to cover certain procedures.
Health care should be a right, not a privilege reserved with the means to pay for it. But the Republican mold would create a system of unequal protection throughout the land. If you happen to live in New York State, you are likely to have better access to life saving, life-affirming care for your family than if you live in Texas.
The Republican plan is a prescription for sicker people who don’t get the checkups, early diagnosis and wellness care to prevent more serious (and costly) and deadly maladies. But they don’t care. Indeed, the rightwingers like Freedom Caucus who are howling mad at the American Health Care Act are upset that it is not draconian enough, that it is “Obamacare Light”.
In TrumpWorld, people are back at the mercy of the for-profit health insurance and health care industry, back under the thumb of employers and abusive spouses. Now that’s freedom-killing, as much as it is a death penalty.
It is as Alan Grayson said early in the Obamacare debate: “The Republican health care plan: don’t get sick. The Republicans have a back-up plan in case you do get sick … Die quickly!”
Rightwingers, conservatives don’t hate Obamacare because it smacks of “socialized medicine.” They hate it because they believe when everyone is entitled to health care, there will be a shortage of doctors, of hospital beds. They will have to wait for appointments. They fear “rationing,” not caring that to avoid that feared scenario, it means that 50 million people will be excluded from health care system altogether.
The solution to having truly universal health care is to reform the health care system – more physicians assistants, nurse practitioners, online diagnosis and triage, more early diagnosis and wellness care.
Contrary to the rightwing hysteria (death panels!) Obamacare is not socialized medicine because it bent health care into a pretzel in order to retain for-profit health insurance entities as the gatekeeper between patients and health care. But the epic failure of the Republican plan, which more than restores ultimate control over people’s lives and quality of life to for-profit companies and employers and abusive spouses, will likely result in a true universal, Medicare-for-All, single-payer system.
Trouble is, that won’t happen for decades more, and not until after hundreds of thousands of people have suffered miserably, died needlessly, prematurely, for lack of access to timely, affordable, quality health care.
With the chaos and uncertainty at the federal level, New York Progressives see an opportunity to push for single-payer health care in the state – a plan that has been approved by the Democratic-controlled Assembly, but has been defeated by the Republican-controlled Senate (with the help of the so-called Independent Democratic coalition of state senators who were elected as Democrats but caucus with Republicans).
Irrespective of what Republicans do in Congress, Ron Widelec, a member of the steering committee of Long Island Activists (LongIslandActivists.org) said, “There is a lot we can do in New York – people forget we can act locally, not everything happens in Congress. Single payer is a real possibility in New York.”
Widelec exposed the lies that are used to beat back universal health care, despite the fact that every other industrialized nation has such a system:
That universal health care is too expensive, will add trillions of dollars to the national debt – but that is belied by the fact that the US spends twice as much on health care as any other industrialized nation, health care amounts to 1/6 of the entire economy, and the outcomes are poor, with the US ranked 32nd among nations, contradicting the claim that the US offers “the best health care in the world.”
Another lie is that universal health care will result in rationing, ”as if 20 million people with no insurance isn’t rationing, or people who have insurance but can’t afford deductibles or copays isn’t rationing, or insurance companies denying care isn’t rationing,” he said.
Janet Green, a nurse who lived in Canada for two years and now lives on Long Island, spoke of the difference: “We lived it, loved it – you could choose any doctor you like, be rid of billing, deductibles, copays; to be covered regardless of age, job status, preexisting conditions, personal wealth. No wonder the Canadians love their single payer universal health insurance system with private provision..
“When we moved to Long Island, the unfairness and inefficiency of an increasingly corporatized health care system was increasingly hard to take because I knew another system. I had coverage through husband’s job – but I was angry, not lucky, to be part of such an unfair system.” That included problems with doctors in/out network; merger/replacement of insurance plans, with changing rules, preferred provider lists not once but twice in 4 years. “There is none of that on single payer, no deductibles or copays or networks.
“I saw the misinformation spread by those most affected, the insurance industry –myths about Canadian system.
“North of the border and throughout the rest of the world, it is understood that to be a compassionate, enlightened society, there must be universal health coverage.
Dr. Martha Livingstone, vice chair of Physicians for a National Health Program, also spoke from experience about Canada’s health program, because she lived in Canada while getting one of her degrees.
“There are only two reasons we don’t have national health insurance Medicare for All – it is 1/6 of the economy and very powerful people are arrayed against us who will do everything in their power to persuade us we can’t have it. And our failure of imagination.
Indeed, it may well be that Republicans have overplayed their hand and the pendulum will swing back much more forcefully. If they succeed in repealing Obamacare and replacing it with Trumpcare, it can cost Republicans to lose Congress in 2018 and the White House in 2020, just as Obamacare cost Democrats control in 2010. Instead of Obamacare, which was Obama’s attempt to appease conservatives who demand a for-profit health care system, there will be universal health care, single-payer Medicare for All, a socialized health care system.
She told of a Victoria BC woman whose son had to go to five specialists before a rare brain tumor was diagnosed, treated, so he could survive. “In the states, he would have been one of 45,000 Americans dead of treatable medical conditions because he didn’t have access to timely medical care.
“Preexisting condition? Life is a preexisting condition, resulting from sexual contact and will invariable end in death. We all have a preexisting condition. We all need health care because we are human beings. How we will get it?
“We are the 99%. We don’t mind paying taxes when they provide for things we need. Who doesn’t want to pay taxes? it’s the billionaires – they want us to be uneducated, unhoused, unfed and if sick, they like us to die [and not be a burden on society]. It is a life/death fight.
“We have to protect the Affordable Care Act, but frankly my dears, ACA was written by the Heritage Foundation, a right wing think tank. It is a Republican plan first put into place by then Governor Mitt Romney in Massachusetts. You have piece a that‘s public, that funds the majority, and the piece that’s private.
“What Romneycare did, then ACA, was to build on the wildly expensive private for-profit sector of the system. We want to build in the wildly successful, inexpensively administered Medicare program…
“There are only two things wrong with Medicare: it doesn’t cover everything, doesn’t cover everybody. So improve it, Medicare for all.”
But regardless of what happens at the federal level, the state can create its own single-payer plan.
“Let New York be the first to have single-payer. What it will do for us in New York State is save us $50 billion, and save everybody but the very wealthiest New Yorkers money over what paying now for lousy access to care, where we have narrow networks, where some insurance genius can tell us at any moment, ‘Well, if you looked at p 793.’ The bill gets rid of all that – no copays, deductibles for a human right. We have to reinforce that. We know we won’t get it through the New York Senate this year, but 2018 if we hold their feet to the fire.”
“This event left me hopeful,” Widelec said before sending everyone off to their breakout sessions to come up with local actions. “The election of Trump wasn’t a hopeful time, but I am hopeful. I believe this is not a matter of left versus right, this is a matter of right versus wrong. One good thing about the 1%: we outnumber them 99 to 1.
Hundreds rallied at the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Huntington (UUFH), under the aegis of Long Island Activists, to strategize how to save Obamacare from Republicans who are moving swiftly to repeal it and replace it with something that is far more costly, would knock tens of millions off health insurance, would raise taxes for middle class and working Americans, and essentially be more costly for less care. But the Long Islanders went an extra step: to demand single-payer – that is, Medicare for All – beginning with New York State.
The rally was one of 150 across the country last weekend with some coordination of Bernie Sanders’ Our Revolution group.
The activists jammed a main room, overflowed the overflow room, and were lined up outside, producing a kind of echo-effect to cheers and boos inside the hall.
“Something feels wrong. Public policy in no way reflects public opinion,” said Ron Widelec, a member of the steering committee of Long Island Activists (LongIslandActivists.org).
“We live in the richest country in history, yet 20 million go without health insurance, tens of millions have insurance but can’t afford to use because the deductibles so high – choosing between feeding children or going to a doctor when not feeling well. These are unacceptable choices in a country this wealthy…
“These are life-or-death situations. That’s why people are out here. It turns out, if you try to take away people’s health care, get angry and show up. Tens of thousands die without access to health care, or can’t afford access so that is the same as not having access. People die if they can’t afford an Epipen.
The Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) was not perfect because it was designed to appease conservatives. Indeed, the framework came out of the right-wing think tank, The Heritage Foundation, and was first implemented by Republican Governor Mitt Romney in Massachusetts. Elements such as a public option or a Medicare buy-in were omitted in order to satisfy so-called moderate Republicans like Susan Collins of Maine, who nonetheless voted against the ACA.
“Many members of Congress are dedicated to the idea they can make the situation even worse . Our position is clear: health care is a human right,” he declared to boisterous cheers.
“While no one thinks ACA perfect, it did things we need to fight for,” Widelec said. “ACA didn’t go far enough – a human right doesn’t have co-pays or deductibles.
“On the federal level, there is very little we can do with Congress. We know Republicans want to overthrow ACA… We have to fight to protect Obamacare and put pressure even on those too cowardly to hold town halls [like Long Island Congressmen Peter King and Lee Zeldin].
But while progressives all along wanted universal health care – that is, single-payer or what is termed Medicare for All – the most immediate goal is to preserve the key elements of Obamacare: covering young people on their parents’ plan until age 26; pre-existing conditions; no lifetime caps; a cap of no more than 20% of the premium going for non-patient spending , and minimal standards for what insurance policies cover – which turns out can only be offered if there is a mandate so that healthy people purchase insurance; otherwise, deductibles or copays or premiums are so high, they are unaffordable.
“It’s not true that the Republicans don’t have a plan,” warned Doreen DiLeonardo, who hosts a progressive radio show. Indeed, the plan that was exposed by Politico is essentially the 2015 bill introduced by then Congressman Tom Price, now the Secretary of Health & Human Services.
According to Politico, the Republican plan would rescind the unpopular individual mandate, subsidies based on people’s income, and all of the law’s taxes. It would significantly roll back Medicaid spending and give states money to create high risk pools for some people with pre-existing conditions. Instead of subsidies to help people with low incomes afford health insurance, it would give tax credits based on age rather than income. That means that multi-millionaire Rex Tillerson, former CEO of Exxon-Mobil and now Trump’s Secretary of State would get a bigger tax credit than the 30-year old who works at Starbucks. In any case, tax credits mainly benefit wealthier people. Meanwhile, the other big Republican idea is for Health Savings Accounts, which once again, benefit wealthier people, while those who are barely affording food and rent will be unable to stash away money in untaxed accounts. (See: Exclusive: Leaked GOP Obamacare replacement shrinks subsidies, Medicaid expansion)
What Democrats point to, though, are provisions that would wind up taxing middle class and working class families for the health insurance benefits they get from their employers, while at the same time ending taxes on the wealthiest Americans that funded the Obamacare subsidies.
“If it were such a good plan, they wouldn’t be hiding it,” DiLeonardo said.
This plan is moving swiftly, she warned.
The Republicans’ “destructive, nihilistic policy will ruin the ACA,” Assemblyman Charles Lavine, who has sponsored universal health care in the State Assembly, said. “They attempted to ruin it from beginning, based on lies. Each and every one here today, superheroesque, survivors of the ‘massacre at Bowling Green’, we know 20-30 million Americans would lose insurance, we know the tragedy that will flow from that – we will return to days preexisting conditions rob people of access to health care. You’re on your own. Lifetime caps – if someone had serious condition, cut off, no more insurance., – when that happens we all pay one way or another for their treatment. Women will pay more for identical coverage, young adults up to 26 no longer on parents’ coverage, you’re on your own.
“We know the lies being told. Trump said ACA robbed people of their insurance. We know that is just another lie. More than 20 million were able to get insured because of ACA, we now have a record low percentage of uninsured people, 10.9%.
“Trump said some plans were canceled [using this to accuse Obama of lying about ACA]. But that’s because they were deficient, illusory plans. What Trump and his confederates want to do, is to allow New Yorkers to go into market and buy insurance from other states. NYS is not going to allow that to happen. We will demand (because NY controls insurance product) that any insurance product sold here has to provide minimum requirements, or else people will get ripped off. Those are the kind of policies people lost because of ACA.”
Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa lied when he said Obamacare would create death panels that would pull the plug on grandma. But a century ago, the worldwide flu epidemic killed off 50 to 100 million people, and bodies were piled up on street corners in Chicago waiting for the city to pick them up, people were on their own, too.
“That’s not that long ago – a blink in time of human history. We stand together you rebellious Americans to demand the human right of health care, and we stand together (big applause). This is a fight for our families, our communities. We are 36 years since the first days of Reagan Administration into a philosophy that says government isn’t the solution, it’s the problem, your enemy. You and I will fight for our families, communities, and damn well we stand up and fight for our government.”
Recalling that President Theodore Roosevelt, a progressive who busted up trusts and created the first national parks, whose home at Sagamore Hill is just a few miles from where this rally is taking place, Ron Widelec said, “Once republicans were progressives, put in policies that helped people, now they are wedded to the invisible hand of the American market, not noticing, it is a hand around throats of American people. We will fight back.”
Newly elected Congressman Tom Suozzi, who has pledged to support universal health care once Democrats take back Congress (and held a packed town hall this past week in which support for ACA was a key issue), said “I believe in health care as a human right. This is a matter of life-and-death for many families now. We have to do a couple of things: protect ACA is the first thing. There is great energy behind that. But we need to improve upon ACA because there are problems – insurance companies, drug companies had too much say in writing ACA and we’re paying the price. Mend it don’t end it. Fix the problems.”
Next: New Yorkers Mobilize for Single Payer Health Care
Ahead of the April 19 New York State Primary, the gloves came off between the two contenders for the Democratic presidential nomination, former Secretary of State and New York Senator Hillary Clinton and Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, at what is being called “The Brooklyn Brawl” – the Democratic Debate at the Brooklyn Navy Yard.
The confrontation was the most contentious to date, but still substantive with both candidates making strong arguments on major issues.
Here are annotated highlights from the “Brooklyn Brawl” – the debate between Democratic contenders for the nomination for president, former Secretary of State and New York State Senator Hillary Clinton and Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, based on a transcript provided by CNN, the news organization that hosted the debate, April 14.
In this section, the candidates debate universal health care, free college, the US Supreme Court, and for the first time in all the debates, what the Supreme Court means for women’s reproductive rights.
Universal Health Care, Free College, Supreme Court
Senator Sanders, you’re promising health care and free college for all, and those plans would be met with both political and practical challenges. The nonpartisan Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget says your initiatives would cost up to $28 trillion and, even after massive tax increases, that would add as much as $15 trillion to the national debt. How is this fiscally responsible?
SANDERS: Well, first of all, I disagree with that study. There are many economists who come up with very, very different numbers.
For example, we are the only country, major country on Earth, that does not guarantee health care to all people, and yet we end up spending almost three times what the British do, 50 percent more than the French. My proposal, a Medicare-for-all, single-payer program, will save (APPLAUSE) will save middle-class families many thousands of dollars a year in their health care costs. Public colleges and universities tuition free? Damn right. That is exactly what we should be doing. (APPLAUSE)
“And I’d pay for that — I’d pay for that by telling Wall Street that, yeah, we are going to have a tax on Wall Street speculation, which will bring in more than enough money to provide free tuition at public colleges and universities and lower the outrageous level of student debt.
“Wolf, we have seen in the last 30 years a massive transfer of wealth from the middle class to the top 0.1 percent. The establishment does not like this idea, but, yes, I am determined to transfer that money back to the working families of this country. (APPLAUSE)
CLINTON: Well, again — again, I absolutely agree with the diagnosis, the diagnosis that we’ve got to do much more to finish the work of getting universal health care coverage, something that I’ve worked on for 25 years. Before there was something called Obamacare, there was something called Hillarycare. And we’re now at 90 percent of coverage; I’m going to get us to 100 percent.
“And with respect to college, I think we have to make college affordable. We are pricing out middle-class, working, and poor families. There’s no doubt about that.
But I do think when you make proposals and you’re running for president, you should be held accountable for whether or not the numbers add up and whether or not the plans (APPLAUSE) are actually going to work.
“And just very briefly, on health care, most of the people who have analyzed what Senator Sanders put out — remember, he had a plan for about, I don’t know, 18, 20 years. He changed in the middle of this campaign. He put out another plan. People have been analyzing the new plan. And there is no doubt by those who have analyzed it, progressive economists, health economists, and the like, that it would pose an incredible burden, not just on the budget, but on individuals. In fact, the Washington Post called it a train-wreck for the poor. A working woman on Medicaid who already has health insurance would be expected to pay about $2,300.
“The same for free college. The free college offer — you know, my late father said, if somebody promises you something for free, read the fine print. You read the fine print, and here’s what it says.
“The fine print says this, that it will — the federal government will cover two-thirds of the cost and require the states, even those led by Republican governors to carry out what the remaining one-third of the cost.”
SANDERS: We are not a country that has the courage to stand up to big money and do what has to be done for the working families of the country. (APPLAUSE)
CLINTON: We have a difference of opinion. We both want to get to universal health care coverage. I did stand up to the special interests and the powerful forces, the health insurance companies and the drug companies. (APPLAUSE)
“And perhaps that’s why I am so much in favor of supporting President Obama’s signature accomplishment with the Affordable Care Act, because I know how hard it was to get that passed, even with a Democratic Congress. So rather than letting the Republicans repeal it or rather starting all over again, trying to throw the country into another really contentious debate, let’s make the Affordable Care Act work for everybody let’s get to 100 percent coverage, let’s get the cost down, and let’s guarantee health care.”
BLITZER: Secretary, let’s talk about Social Security, another critically important issue. Senator Sanders has challenged you to give a clear answer when it comes to extending the life of Social Security and expanding benefits. Are you prepared to lift the cap on taxable income, which currently stands at $118,500? Yes or no, would you lift the cap?
CLINTON: I have said repeatedly, Wolf, I am going to make the wealthy pay into Social Security to extend the Social Security Trust Fund. That is one way. If that is the way that we pursue, I will follow that.
“But there are other ways. We should be looking at taxing passive income by wealthy people. We should be looking at taxing all of their investment.
“But here’s the real issue, because I — I’ve heard this, I’ve seen the reports of it. I have said from the very beginning, we are going to protect Social Security. I was one of the leaders in the fight against Bush when he was trying to privatize Social Security.
“But we also, in addition to extending the Trust Fund, which I am absolutely determined to do, we’ve got to help people who are not being taken care of now. And because Social Security started in the 1930s, a lot of women have been left out and left behind.
“And it’s time that we provide more benefits for widows, divorcees, for caregivers, for women who deserve more from the Social Security system and that will be my highest priority.” (APPLAUSE)
SANDERS: Now, we’ve got — here is the issue. Your answer has been the same year after year. In fact, the idea that I’m bringing forth, I have to admit it, you know, it wasn’t my idea. It was Barack Obama’s idea in 2008, the exact same idea. (APPLAUSE)
“He called for lifting the cap, which is now higher — it’s at 118 — and starting at 250 and going on up. If you do that, you’re going to extend the life of Social Security for 58 years. You will significantly expand benefits by 1,300 bucks a year for seniors and disabled vets under $16,000 a year. What’s wrong with that? Are you prepared to support it?
CLINTON: I have supported it. You know, we are in vigorous agreement here, Senator.
‘You know, we’re having a discussion about the best way to raise money from wealthy people to extend the Social Security Trust Fund. Think about what the other side wants to do. They’re calling Social Security a Ponzi scheme. They still want to privatize it. In fact, their whole idea is to turn over the Social Security Trust Fund to Wall Street, something you and I would never let happen.
“I’ve said the same thing for years. I didn’t say anything different tonight. We are going to extend the Social Security Trust Fund. There is still something called Congress. Now, I happen to support Democrats and I want to get Democrats to take back the majority in the United States Senate so a lot of — a lot of what we’re talking about can actually be implemented when I am president.”
SANDERS: — maybe I’m a little bit confused.
“Are you or are you not supporting legislation to lift the cap on taxable income and expand Social Security for 58 years and increase benefits…”
CLINTON: I am…
SANDERS: — yes or no?
CLINTON: I have said yes, we are going to pick the best way or combination…
SANDERS: Oh, you — ah. (APPLAUSE) (BOOS)
CLINTON: — or combination of ways… (BOOS)
CLINTON: — you know… (BOOS)
CLINTON: — it — it’s all — it’s always a little bit, uh, challenging because, you know, if Senator Sanders doesn’t agree with how you are approaching something, then you are a member of the establishment. Well, let me say then…
SANDERS: Well, look (APPLAUSE)
CLINTON: — let me say this (APPLAUSE)
CLINTON: — we are going to extend the Social Security Trust Fund. We’ve got some good ideas to do it. Let’s get a Congress elected that will actually agree with us in doing it.
SANDERS: Yes, Secretary Clinton (CROSSTALK) you are a member of the establishment.
Secretary Clinton, regarding President Obama’s nomination of Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court. President Obama said earlier this week that he would not withdraw the nomination, even after the presidential election. If elected, would you ask the president to withdraw the nomination?
CLINTON: I am not going to contradict the president’s strategy on this. And I’m not going to engage in hypotheticals. I fully support the president. (APPLAUSE)
“And I believe that the president — the president is on the right side of both the Constitution and history. And the Senate needs to immediately begin to respond. So I’m going to support the president. When I am president, I will take stock of where we are and move from there.”
SANDERS: Well, there is no question. I mean, it really is an outrage. And it just continues, the seven-and-a-half years of unbelievable obstructionism we have seen from these right-wing Republicans.
“I mean, a third-grader in America understands the president of the United States has the right to nominate individuals to the U.S. Supreme Court. Apparently everybody understands that except the Republicans in Congress.
LOUIS: So, Senator Sanders, would you ask him to withdraw the nomination?
SANDERS: Yes, but here is the point, and obviously i will strongly support that nomination as a member of the Senate. But, if elected president, I would ask the president to withdraw that nomination because I think — I think this.
“I think that we need a Supreme Court justice who will make it crystal clear, and this nominee has not yet done that, crystal clear that he or she will vote to overturn Citizens United and make sure that American democracy is not undermined.” (APPLAUSE)
CLINTON: You know, there is no doubt that the only people that I would ever appoint to the Supreme Court are people who believe that Roe V. Wade is settled law and Citizens United needs to be overturned.
“And I want to say something about this since we’re talking about the Supreme Court and what’s at stake. We’ve had eight debates before, this is our ninth. We’ve not had one question about a woman’s right to make her own decisions about reproductive health care, not one question. (APPLAUSE)
“And in the meantime we have states, governors doing everything they can to restrict women’s rights. We have a presidential candidate by the name of Donald Trump saying that women should be punished. And we are never asked about this.
“And to be complete in my concern, Senator Sanders says with respect to Trump it was a distraction. I don’t think it’s a distraction. It goes to the heart of who we are as women, our rights, our autonomy, our ability to make our own decisions, and we need to be talking about that and defending Planned Parenthood from these outrageous attacks.”
SANDERS: You’re looking at a senator and former congressman who proudly has a 100 percent pro-choice voting record, who will take on those Republican governors who are trying to restrict a woman’s right to choose, who will take on those governors right now who are discriminating outrageously against the LGBT community, who comes from a state which led the effort for gay marriage in this country, proudly so. (APPLAUSE) Who not only thinks we are not going to — not defund Planned Parenthood, we’ve got to expand funding for Planned Parenthood. (APPLAUSE)