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Sen. Sanders, Rep. McDermott propose single-payer legislation

Though Republicans control the U.S. House and Democrats’ hold on the Senate took a hit in the 2010 election, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) is trying once more to pass a Medicare-for-all single payer health care bill — something he tried to do in 2009 as an amendment to his party’s health care overhaul before Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) used a procedural move to force the progressive senator to withdraw his proposal.

The new legislation is a stand-alone measure titled American Health Security Act of 2011 [PDF]; Rep. Jim McDermott (D-Wash.) filed a companion bill in the House under the same name.

In a press event announcing the bill, the two long-serving legislators were joined by Labor leaders supportive of a single-payer system, including Arlene Baker-Holt, executive vice president of the AFL-CIO; Jean Ross, co-president of the National Nurses United; and Greg Junemann, president of the International Federation of Professional and Technical Engineers.

A statement released by Sanders’ office quotes the senator as saying:

The United States is the only major nation in the industrialized world that does not guarantee health care as right to its people,” Sanders said at a press conference on Capitol Hill. “Meanwhile, we spend about twice as much per capita on health care with worse results than others that spend far less. It is time that we bring about a fundamental transformation of the American health care system. It is time for us to end private, for-profit participation in delivering basic coverage. It is time for the United States to provide a Medicare-for-all single-payer health coverage program.

The bill proposed by Sanders and McDermott is unlikely to pass; House Republicans have offered a spate of bills aimed at repealing parts of health reform that were viewed as mostly symbolic votes, since Democrats control the Senate and Oval Office.

The 188-page document is lithe for congressional standards. Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act is nearly ten times as long with 1024 pages. The American Health Security Act of 2011 explains the urgency of the bill’s passage in the first two pages:

(1) While the United States of America spends on average nearly twice as much per capita on health care services as the next most costly nation, the United States ranks 32d among all nations on life expectancy, and 41st on infant mortality.

(2) The number of uninsured Americans rose by more than 4,000,000 between 2008 and 2009 to a total of 51,000,000, or more than 1 of every 6 Americans.

(3) This rise in the number of uninsured Americans was the largest single-year increase since 1987 and was the result of a continued decline in private health coverage, primarily in employer-sponsored insurance.

(4) Small businesses around the country cannot afford to reinvest in their companies and create new jobs because their health care bills are going up 10 or 15 percent every year.

(5) American businesses are at an economic disadvantage, because their health care costs are so much higher than in other countries. Notably, auto- mobile manufacturers spend more on health care per automobile than on steel.

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