Today, Sen. Bernie Sanders is introducing legislation that would expand Medicare into a universal health insurance program. At least 15 Democratic senators are backing the Sanders’s Medicare for All Act of 2017 – that’s one-third of the Senate Democratic Caucus and includes just about every Democrat seriously considering a presidential run in 2020.
“This is where the country has got to go,” Sanders said in an interview at his Senate office. “Right now, if we want to move away from a dysfunctional, wasteful, bureaucratic system into a rational health-care system that guarantees coverage to everyone in a cost-effective way, the only way to do it is Medicare for All.”
The bill proposes replacing the current health care with a public system that would be paid for by higher taxes and cover most medical care such as dental, vision and hearing aid care with no co-payments. There would be a four-year transition period in which the plan would first insure all children and adults 55 or older, then expand gradually to cover all adults.
Employers would pay higher taxes, but would no longer have to cover health insurance for workers. The higher taxes that individuals would pay would be largely, if not completely, offset by lower health care costs. People who want elective treatments like plastic surgery can still seek out private insurers to cover their costs.
This legislation would save lives in Georgia, where the Medicaid coverage gap has been harming Georgians across the state. As of 2016, there are between 300,000 and 600,000 Georgians who fall into the coverage gap — one of the highest numbers in the country.
These hundreds of thousands of people are uninsured, meaning their access to necessary and life-saving treatment is severely restricted, costing Georgians their health and their lives.
The Medicaid gap also puts pressure on Georgia’s rural hospitals, which are already in the midst of a crisis. Rural hospitals across the state have closed down, leaving massive health care holes and job cuts in communities. Unfortunately, many more hospitals are struggling to keep their doors open as well.
Essentially, by working to mend the Medicaid gap, the bill would revolutionize health care for our state. Though critics say Sanders’s bill can’t withstand a Republican-held Senate, the quick popularity of Sanders’s bill shows that Americans are ready for change.
“You’re seeing it in polling, you’re seeing it in town meetings, you’re seeing the American people waking up and demanding that we end this dysfunctional system, and we join the rest of the industrialized world,” Sanders said.