Bernie Sanders Returns to GW

The 2020 Democratic presidential candidate gave a speech on campus about his “Medicare for All” proposal.

Bernie Sanders speaks at GW
Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) outlined his "Medicare for All" plan during a campaign speech at GW. (Harrison Jones/GW Today)
July 18, 2019

By Tatyana Hopkins

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) defended his proposed “Medicare for All” plan Wednesday amid recent attacks on the proposal from his opponents for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination, including former Vice President Joe Biden.

During a speech at the George Washington University, Mr. Sanders also urged his fellow Democratic contenders to reject campaign donations from private insurance and pharmaceutical companies. 

“If we are going to break the stranglehold of corporate interests over the health care needs of the American people, we have to confront a Washington culture that is corrupt, that puts profits ahead of the needs of the people,” Mr. Sanders said. “That is why today I am calling on every Democratic candidate in this election to join me in rejecting money from the insurance and drug companies.”

Politico reported that some of Mr. Sanders’s opponents in the Democratic presidential primary have held fundraisers hosted by insurance company executives. It also reported that about half of the 20-plus candidates seeking the Democratic nomination support “Medicare for All.”

Mr. Sanders spoke at GW’s Jack Morton Auditorium at an event sponsored by his campaign to talk about what he called “half-truths, misinformation and in some cases outright lies” surrounding his “Medicare for All” bill.

Calling for broad changes to the U.S. health care system, Mr. Sanders asserted that the current system is too compromised by profit-seeking companies, pointing to large CEO compensation packages and higher prices for care compared to other developed countries.

“The debate we are currently having in this campaign and all over this country has nothing to do with health care, but it has everything to do with the greed and profits of the health care industry,” he said. “What we are talking about is a health care industry of … entities that make tens and tens of billions of dollars every single year while ignoring and turning their backs on the needs of the American people.”

The speech came just days after Mr. Biden expressed opposition to a “Medicare for All” single-payer system and announced his own health care plan, which would preserve existing private insurance plans while adding a competing public option to the 2010 Affordable Care Act.

“’Medicare for All’ critics tell us that Americans just love their private health insurance companies," Mr. Sanders said. “I have never met one person who loves their insurance company. I have met many people who do love their doctors and their nurses, who have very good experiences in their hospitals, and what we do is to say you can go to those doctors, you can go to those hospitals, but you're not going to have to anymore deal with rip-off insurance companies."

Mr. Sanders argued that his single-payer plan would allow patients to choose any health care provider without “worrying” about whether they were in or out of their health insurance network, cap patient’s drug costs and eliminate insurance premiums, deductibles and co-payments.

He broadly outlined how he would implement his universal, government-run health care system over four years.

In the first year, Mr. Sanders said, the program’s eligibility age would be lowered from 65 to 55 and would expand its current coverage to include dental, vision and hearing aids.

“The last that I heard, the ability to hear, the ability to see and the desire to have teeth in your mouth is a health care issue," Mr. Sanders said. “Despite what you hear about Medicare for seniors being weakened, the truth is exactly the opposite, it will be strengthened.”

He said children would also be eligible for the insurance program in the first year. In the second year, the eligibility age would be lowered to 45, then to 35 in the third year before opening up to all adults in the fourth year.

Mr. Sanders acknowledged that the plan would require tax increases. But he said his single-payer system would cut costs by offering a program that “will not focus on profit but will focus on health care outcomes,” noting a study that shows the federal government would spend $50 trillion, almost 20 percent of the nation’s GDP, over the next 10 years under its current system.

 “My Republican friends and some others seem to think that the American people hate paying taxes but they just love paying insurance premiums,” he said. “Oh my God, dear, the insurance premium is here, what a wonderful day! Oh wow, let’s celebrate!”

During the speech, Mr. Sanders also announced that on July 28 he plans to join a group of Americans with diabetes on a bus trip from Detroit to Ontario, Canada, to purchase insulin for a fraction of the price that they purchase it for in the United States.

Mr. Sanders said that Canada called it an “international embarrassment” that the United States did not guarantee every citizen health care.

“The time is now to stand with the American people and guarantee health care to all people,” he said.

The event was the second held at GW by Mr. Sanders’ campaign during the 2020 election season.  

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