The Fight for Single-Payer Healthcare During the Biden Administration

Bernie is still fighting to give everyone healthcare.

During a time of extreme austerity, Bernie Sanders is attempting to create a national emergency health insurance plan that could have a long-lasting effect on the way Americans think about healthcare, even after the COVID-19 pandemic is over. But, once again, Joe Biden is attempting to stifle Medicare For All along with other progressive policies in an attempt to win over Republicans in Congress.

It feels like every day there’s a new reason to be skeptical of this Democratic administration. Despite controlling both houses and the presidency, establishment Democrats seem hesitant to press for any progressive policy. Earlier this week, Joe Biden signaled his intent to seek Republican approval for his COVID-19 relief package. These are the same Republicans who took great pleasure in flipping the bird to the DNC while nominating an accused sexual abuser to the Supreme Court, passing tax cuts for the ultra-wealthy, etc. This needless compromise will almost certainly water down the plan and slow its passage while the pandemic is peaking.

And it should surprise no one. Biden ran on a platform of empty centrism, offering nothing to the American people aside from getting rid of Trump.

 So if Joe won’t fight for us, who will?

Bernie Sanders, US Senator and 2-time victim of DNC sabotage, has won the strategic position of chair of the Senate Budget Committee. While this position doesn’t give him the power to enact the same platform he ran on last year, Sanders will, as The New York Times put it, play “a leading role in deciding how expansive and expensive Mr. Biden’s ambitions for new taxes and spending will be.”

Bernie’s definitely going to use his new role and the increased prominence to leverage a vote on single-payer healthcare. The proposals are likely going to follow the idea of an emergency universal healthcare program, a popular move that could provide transformative relief to millions of people struggling to deal with COVID-19 and other ailments. One can reasonably assume the bill would be similar to H.R.6906 – Health Care Emergency Guarantee Act, covering “any health care items and services … medically necessary or appropriate for the maintenance of health or for the diagnosis, treatment, or rehabilitation of a health condition of the applicable individual.” For anyone who already has health insurance, it would foot the bill for “the amount of any cost-sharing, including any deductibles, copayments, coinsurance or similar charges.”

This essentially creates a temporary infrastructure for something very close to universal healthcare in the US. Right-wing economist Milton Friedman used to say that nothing was as permanent as a temporary government program. There’s plenty of historic examples dating as far back as Britain’s income tax, which was brought in as a temporary measure to help fund the Napoleonic Wars. So it would not be only a good policy to address America’s coronavirus surge, but could be a drastic step toward a permanent single-payer apparatus. 

This is a popular reform. A Hill-HarrisX poll from 2020 showed that 69% (nice) of Americans supported Medicare for All and a poll courtesy of right-wing propaganda outlet FOX News put support around 72%. The programs are often critiqued by reactionaries as state overreach, but data proves that people actually love government healthcare. A 2015 Gallup survey found that: “Americans’ satisfaction with the way the healthcare system works for them varies by the type of insurance they have. Satisfaction is highest among those with veterans or military health insurance, Medicare and Medicaid, and is lower among those with employer-paid and self-paid insurance.”

Bernie is going to fight hard for this trial run of universal coverage just like he always has. But it’s important that the people who rallied around him in the past four years continue the fight and start organizing locally. Sign this petition to pressure Governor Gavin Newsom to start developing a statewide single-payer healthcare system in California:

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