‘We will win this struggle’

  • Medicare for All plan would cover 323m Americans under single system
  • Bill unlikely to pass in Congress but support growing among Democrats

Battle lines have been drawn as Bernie Sanders launches his latest attempt to establish a healthcare system that covers all 323 million Americans.

Standing in opposition to Sanders’ plan are what he calls the “most powerful and greedy forces in American society”: the pharmaceutical industry, insurance companies, Wall Street and the Republican party.

“The opposition to this will be extraordinary,” Sanders said in an interview in his Capitol Hill office, prior to the launch of his universal healthcare bill, known as “Medicare for All”.

“They will spend an enormous amount of money fighting us. They will lie about what is in the program. They will frighten the American people,” he said.

Sanders has no illusions about the bill’s prospects in a Republican-controlled Congress, where it has virtually no chance of passing. But he says the time has arrived to have a debate he believes is fundamental: is healthcare a right or a privilege in America?

Sanders formally unveiled the bill at a packed press conference on Wednesday, with the backing of nearly a third of the Democratic caucus in the Senate – a record level of support for a bill he introduced just four years ago with only one signature, his own.

The Sanders plan would radically reform the American healthcare system, transitioning over the course of four years to a “Medicare for All” program, a single-payer system in which the federal government insures everybody, financed by an increase in taxes.

Sanders’ bill would establish a national health insurance program by gradually expanding Medicare – the federal health insurance program for people who are 65 or older and some younger Americans with disabilities and other illnesses – until it covered everybody.

Sanders said of the plan: “You’re going to the same private doctor that you went to. You’re going to go to the same hospital that you went to. The only difference is instead of having a Blue Cross Blue Shield [insurance] card – and having to argue with your insurance company – you’re going to have a Medicare for All card. That’s it.”

Everything from primary and preventive services to hospital stays would be covered under the plan, with no out-of-pocket costs on deductible and copays. It would also include access to abortion, in effect overturning the Hyde amendment, which bans…

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