After years of avoiding the issue and searching for more of a middle ground, this week, the sixteenth Democratic Senator joined Bernie Sanders in co-sponsoring a bill that would set the United States on a path to a single payer healthcare system. This current bill is form of Medicare for all, and it is gaining support from all corners of the country.
In 2013, Sanders brought up a similar bill, but it received no cosponsors from either party. He then ran for president on a very clear platform supporting the idea of a single payer system based on the proposal of expanding Medicare coverage to all Americans regardless of age or disability. That shifted much of the country, especially on the left, toward the idea of a single payer health system. Much of the Democratic Party has followed suit, especially among the base. That pressure is now pushing upward to some of the highest ranking and most popular Democrats in the nation.
“The principle that I support is universal, accessible, affordable quality health care for all,” said Senator Mazie Hirono of Hawaii, one of the newest cosponsors, “and I think the single-payer system is a strong articulation of the principle.”
Even Joe Manchin of West Virginia, considered the most conservative Democrat in the legislative body, has said he is considering support of single payer, though he is not ready to jump on board with Sanders’ bill just yet.
Other, more moderate Democrats like Claire McCaskill of Missouri and Chris Van Hollen of Maryland have expressed interest or support with reservations. McCaskill has stated that she would support lowering the age of Medicare eligibility from 65 to 55. Others, like former Vice Presidential candidate, Senator Tim Kaine of Virginia, and Senator Michael Bennett of Colorado are working on a public option for the ACA, or Obamacare as it is more popularly known. Many believed that to be the main missing part of the ACA when it was originally passed.
Some of the strongest supporters of Sanders’ bill are those Senators considered at the top of the race for President in 2020. Corey Booker of New Jersey and Kamala Harris of California are looked at as two of the primary contenders, as is early cosponsor Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts. Their desire to appeal to Democratic voters in a presidential primary may have pushed them faster into Sanders’ camp, especially since single payer has become such a hot button issue for so many progressive and even moderate Democrats.
“The Democratic Party is increasingly wrapping itself in the flag of Medicare for all,” added Adam Green, one of the chairs of the Progressive Change Campaign Committee. “Bernie Sanders proved the concept of how popular and motivating this can be for voters.”