The Washington Independent
The Washington Independent

Sanders, the Lone Senate Voice for Single-Payer Health Coverage

Last updated: July 31, 2020 | June 03, 2009 | Amandeep Coleman
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This morning, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), sponsor of the only Senate bill proposing a single-payer health coverage system, met with Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.), chairman of the Finance Committee, and advocates for single-payer health care.

The conclusion? Regret, on the part of Baucus, that he’d failed to invite single-payer proponents to any of the many Finance hearings he’d called earlier this year to explore which direction health reform should go — at least according to Sanders.

“I think that Sen. Baucus indicated that he thought that that was a mistake — not allowing that hearing, not allowing that discussion,” Sanders said after today’s gathering.

Sanders also questioned the logic of a health system in which for-profit insurers — who, by definition, have greater responsibilities to shareholders than they do to patients — are given such powers to dictate who receives what care.

The major reason that our current health care system is so expensive has much to do with the role that private insurance companies play. The function of a private health insurance company is not to provide health care; it is to deny health care. Every dollar of premium that a health insurance company does not spend on health care needs is a dollar more in profits.

Sanders isn’t delusional about single-payer reform getting anywhere this year, but he did indicate that the push is gaining momentum. Indeed, he says, it’s the only way to reach Congress’ stated goal of covering all 46 million uninsured Americans.

In my view this is not a health care issue, this is a political and economic issue. You have the pharmaceutical industry and the insurance compan[ies] making billions and billions of dollars every single year off of people’s illness. I think that that is immoral, and I think it creates a system which is dysfunctional.

And furthermore, these very same institutions — the drug companies, the insurance companies, the medical equipment suppliers — what do they do? They use some of their profits, they pump it back into lobbying [and] campaign contributions — hundreds of millions of dollars over a period of years. That’s what we’re up against. That’s what we’re up against…

At the end of the day, when millions and millions of people say, “Every American is entitled to health care as a right, and it must be comprehensive, and it must be cost effective” — when that day comes, you’re going to have a single payer system.”

Just not this year.

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