Lawmakers introduce bills to ‘guarantee health care as a fundamental human right to all people in the U.S.’
Federal lawmakers hope Medicare for all could reform the American health care system.
Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vermont, and other legislators in the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives have reintroduced the Medicare for All Act bills “that would guarantee health care as a fundamental human right to all people in the U.S. regardless of income or background.”
“The American people understand, as I do, that health care is a human right, not a privilege,” Sanders said in a statement.
“It is not acceptable to me, nor to the American people, that over 85 million people today are either uninsured or underinsured,” said Sanders, current Chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee. “As we speak, there are millions of people who would like to go to a doctor but cannot afford to do so. That is an outrage.
“In America, your health and your longevity should not be dependent on your bank account or your stock portfolio,” Sanders’ statement said. “After all the lives that we lost to this terrible pandemic, it is clearer now, perhaps more than it has ever been before, that we must act to end the international embarrassment of the United States being the only major country on earth to not guarantee health care to all.”
The Medicare for All Act would be implemented over four years to provide comprehensive health care coverage to all with no out-of-pocket expenses, insurance premiums, deductibles, or co-payments, the lawmakers’ announcement said.
“This includes coverage for primary care, vision, dental, prescription drugs, mental health, substance use disorder, long-term services and supports, reproductive health care, and more,” the statement said. “The legislation would create a more streamlined and cost-effective system, allow patients not to worry if their doctor is ‘in-network,’ and substantially reduce the cost of prescription drugs by allowing the federal government to negotiate with pharmaceutical companies.”
The Congressional Budget Office estimated Medicare for All would save the American people and the entire health care system $650 billion each year. For patients, Medicare would save an estimated 68,000 lives a year by guaranteeing health care, according to a study by Yale epidemiologists and published in The Lancet. Families making less than $185,000 would save an average of $3,000 a year with Medicare for All, according to a study by RAND.
In 2020, 69% of the American people supported providing Medicare to every American, according to the lawmakers, and the reintroduced bills were endorsed by almost 200 national, state, and local organizations, the lawmakers said.
The lawmakers argued their case from various points relating to health care and the economy writ large – starting with the claim that 68,000 Americans die each year because they cannot afford health care. Millions more delay treatment and more than 85 million Americans are uninsured or under-insured because of high deductibles and premiums.
Meanwhile, health care spending in the United States has grown to become 18% of the nation’s gross domestic product, according to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. Yet health outcomes, life expectancy, and infant mortality rates in the U.S. remain much worse than many other major countries, the lawmakers said. Estimates show 44% of the adult population, about 112 million people, are struggling to pay for the medical care they need.
Business has been good for the seven major health insurance companies in America that made more than $69 billion in profits last year – up 287% since 2012, according to Sanders and the lawmakers.
“As millions of American families face bankruptcy and financial ruin because of the outrageously high cost of health care, the CEOs of 300 major health care companies collectively made $4.5 billion in total compensation in 2021,” the lawmakers’ statement said. “While one out of four Americans cannot afford the life-saving medicine their doctors prescribe, last year ten of the top pharmaceutical companies in the United States made over $112 billion in profits, and the top 50 executives in these companies made a combined $1.5 billion in total compensation.”
Sanders was joined by 14 other Democratic senators sponsoring the legislation. Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Washington), and Rep. Debbie Dingell (D-Michigan) led more than 110 sponsors in the House of Representatives.