Above photo: Participants in lobby day, from L to R, Dr. Eric Naumburg, Brittany Shannahan, Dr. Margaret Flowers, Steve Dunbar, Larry and Liz Carson, Vanessa Beck, Jackie MacMillan and Rosemary Grace. Photo by Ted Athey.
On March 31, four steering committee members of Health Over Profit for Everyone, Dr. Carol Paris, Dr. Robert Zarr, Dr. Margaret Flowers and Kevin Zeese, met with Bernie Sanders’ staff to discuss his plans for healthcare reform. Here are our notes:
1. Sanders will be introducing a single payer bill, most likely in May. It follows the plan of the House bill, HR 676, but goes into more depth on how the law will work. It is possible he may have some co-sponsors from the start, so urge your senators to reach out to Sanders and become a co-sponsor. Rep. Peter Welch of Vermont will not introduce it in the House, so there will be only one bill, HR 676: “The expanded and improved Medicare for all Act” (of which he is one of 77 co-sponsors).
2. Others in the Senate are possibly going to introduce a public option. We told the staff that the public option divided and confused people during the ACA debate and that such approaches had not worked where they have been tried. We urged Sanders to focus on single payer, not the public option, which we see as a diversion from what we really need.
3. There is consideration of lowering the Medicare age to 55. If this is proposed, Sanders supports lowering the age, rather than offering a buy-in to Medicare. Again, we prefer Medicare for all, not Medicare for some. Like the public option, Sanders is not working on a Medicare for some bill, but he supports both as steps to “improve the ACA.”
We will follow-up with Sanders to further flesh out our views and in particular to let him know that people are organizing a movement for improved Medicare for all and that while we do not expect to win this year, we do expect to win. We do not want anyone, especially Sen. Sanders, telling us we cannot win.
Also, we want to push him to understand (something which we think he already knows) — the ACA cannot be fixed. It was written by and for the insurance industry and as long as the private insurance industry is the foundation for health care, we will always have a poor healthcare program in the United States.
But, we were very pleased in general with what Sen. Sanders’ staff told us and we will be watching to make sure the details are consistent with the approach the movement is advocating and that the people need.
Earlier this week, a few dozen advocates delivered information about Medicare for All to every member of Congress’ health legislative assistant. We also collected their business cards and we are currently entering them into a database that we will make available on April 3 so that Medicare for All advocates know whom to contact. We urge people to develop a relationship with the health legislative assistant for their member of Congress and provide them information about why National Improved Medicare for All is the best solution to our health care crisis.