On Wednesday, May 17, legislation to create a universal, “Medicare for All” healthcare system — a UE demand since the 1940s — was reintroduced in both the House and Senate. The House bill was introduced with a record number of co-sponsors, including the majority of the Democratic caucus and 13 powerful legislators who are the highest-ranking Democrats in their committees.
When exacted, the Act will create that system by building on and expanding the existing Medicare system to provide comprehensive healthcare benefits to every person in the United States. Benefits will include primary care, vision, dental, prescription drugs, mental health, substance abuse, long-term services and supports, reproductive health care, and more. Patients will have the freedom to choose the doctors, hospitals, and other providers they wish to see without worrying about whether a provider is in-network. Furthermore, the legislation streamlines the healthcare system to negotiate drug prices and reduce exorbitant administrative waste.
“Over the last few years, we have asked our members around the country to fill out a healthcare cost calculator to figure out how much they are already paying for healthcare,” said UE General President Carl Rosen. “Not surprisingly, it turns out that a large majority of them are spending at least 15 to 25 percent of their income on healthcare costs, between premium shares, co-pays and deductibles. Medicare for All, under virtually any scenario, would save these members large sums of money. Furthermore, taking health care off of the bargaining table will allow all of our members to make much-needed improvements in wages and working conditions, and to catch up with the inflation that has seen the cost of basic necessities skyrocket over the past year.”
“The American people understand, as I do, that healthcare is a human right, not a privilege,” said the bill’s lead sponsor in the Senate, long-time UE ally Bernie Sanders. Sanders currently chairs the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee.
“It is not acceptable to me, nor to the American people, that over 85 million people today are either uninsured or underinsured,” continued Sanders. “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. 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.”