The Fight for Single Payer Healthcare During the Biden Administration

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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 health care, even after the COVID-19 pandemic is over. But once again, Joe Biden is attempting to stifle Medicare For All along with any other progressive policies in an attempt to gain Republican support in Congress.

It feels like every day there’s a new reason to be skeptical of the new Democratic Administration. Despite holding a majority in 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 votes and approval for his COVID relief package. The same Republicans that took great pleasure in flipping the bird to the DNC while nominating an accused sexual abuser to the supreme court, passing heavy tax cuts on the ultra-wealthy, and WAY more than I can fit in a high school weekly periodical. This needless compromise will almost certainly water down the plan and slow its passage amongst some of the worst numbers in the course of the pandemic. This should be a surprise to no one. Biden ran on a platform of empty centrism. Offering nothing to the American people aside from the opportunity to finally stop hearing about Trump every day.

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

Bernie Sanders (Senator of Vermont and 2-time victim of DNC sabotage) has won the strategic position of chair of the Senate Budget Committee. While this position doesn’t come close to giving Bernie the power he needs to operate on the same platform he ran on last year (rip), he WILL be able to, as the New York Times put it, “effectively gives Mr. Sanders 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 single-payer healthcare vote. The proposals are likely going to follow the idea of an emergency universal health care program, a popular move that could provide significant transformative relief to millions of people struggling to deal with COVID and other ailments. One can reasonably assume the bill will be similar to H.R.6906 – Health Care Emergency Guarantee Act. The bill would cover “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 front 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 historical examples dating as far back as Britain’s income tax, which was brought in as a temporary measure to help fight the Napoleonic wars. So it would not be only a good policy to remedy the “temporary” inadequacies of America’s COVID case influx but could be a drastic step towards 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 from the right-wing propaganda network FOX News put support around 72%. The programs are often critiqued by reactionaries because “muhhh guberment bad” but data proves that people actually love government healthcare. A 2015 Gallup survey observed 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 like he always has. But it’s important that the people that rallied around him in the past 4 years pick up the fight and start organizing locally. Sign this petition to pressure Gavin Newsom to start the process of developing a statewide single-payer healthcare system in California:


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