Bernie Sanders Wants to Give You a 'Universal Medicare' Card
Senator unveils plan to provide insurance for everyone through Medicare
By Newser Editors,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 13, 2017 8:03 AM CDT
Updated Sep 13, 2017 9:36 AM CDT
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Sen. Bernie Sanders wants to fundamentally change how Americans get health insurance.   (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana)

(Newser) – Bernie Sanders rolled out his vision to overhaul the health care system on Wednesday, one in which everybody would get their insurance from the government through Medicare instead of through their jobs or a private insurer. Sanders calls it the Medicare for All Act of 2017, but you'll also hear phrases such as "single payer" and "universal health care" used to describe it. One key part missing: details on how to pay for it, though Sanders plans to release a separate paper on that, reports the Wall Street Journal. Coverage:

  • The basics: Per CNN, everybody gets a "Universal Medicare card," which would be used to cover all health bills, from surgeries to dental care to substance abuse treatment. Co-payments would go away, and people would pay premiums based on their incomes, reports the AP. Private insurers would still exist, but for things such as elective plastic surgery or, sometimes, to act as middlemen between the government and hospitals or doctors.
  • A 'right': Sanders makes his case in an op-ed in the New York Times. "Guaranteeing health care as a right is important to the American people not just from a moral and financial perspective; it also happens to be what the majority of the American people want."

  • 'Single payer': David Leonhardt of the New York Times has a Q&A on the fundamentals, including the basic question of what the term "single payer" means. In short, it "describes a system in which only one entity—the government—pays medical bills. If all Americans had Medicare rather than insurance through their jobs, it would be a single-payer system." Vox says Sanders' system is far more generous than single-payer plans in Canada and elsewhere.
  • The cost: This could cost hundreds of billions of dollars more per year, per the Journal. Details are yet to come, but Sanders envisions a progressive tax increase, with the wealthy paying more income, capital gains, and estate taxes, reports Newsweek. The senator says higher taxes for families would be offset by the fact that they no longer have to buy insurance. Still, in regard to single-payer systems, "no one—including Sanders—has truly reckoned with how to pay for whatever system they might support," writes Mike Allen at Axios.
  • Litmus test? By all accounts, the chances of it passing a GOP-controlled Congress are precisely 0%. But it's turning into a political litmus test of sorts for Democrats, reports the Washington Post. Sanders has the support of 15 Democratic senators so far, including all of those seen as potential 2020 presidential candidates. Co-sponsors include Elizabeth Warren, Kirsten Gillibrand, Cory Booker, and Kamala Harris. But many prominent Democrats are not on board, at least yet, including Nancy Pelosi, Chuck Schumer, and those in tough re-election fights, reports Politico.
  • The politics: No, this isn't going to pass, "but here's the big question," writes Perry Bacon Jr. at FiveThirtyEight. "Is it going to become one of the central goals of the Democratic Party and a defining feature of the campaign of whichever Democrat is the party's nominee in 2020?" As of now, this "seems very likely," as the Democratic party seems to be gravitating to the left. But Bacon lays out the political and policy reasons why Democrats might avoid "becoming the party of single payer."
  • Relishing the fight: Republicans see a chance to pounce. "We welcome the Democrats' strategy of moving even further left," says Katie Martin, spokesperson for the Senate GOP's campaign organization, per the AP.

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