By John Nichols for the Nation

House Budget Committee chair Paul Ryan, R-Wisconsin, proposes to undermine the integrity of the Medicare and Medicaid programs, with an eye toward enriching the insurance companies that so generously fund his campaigns.

The American people are not amused. They have sent a clear signal that they want to maintain Medicare and Medicaid.

And rightly so. despite the battering they have taken from misguided and malignant policy makers, the Medicare and Medicaid programs still provide the rough outlines for a single-payer health care program that keep costs down while expanding access to prevention and treatment for millions of Americans.

So, instead of gutting Medicare, as Ryan proposes, why not expand on what works.

That’s what Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders is proposing.

“The United States is the only major nation in the industrialized world that does not guarantee health care as right to its people. Meanwhile, we spend about twice as much per capita on health care with worse results than others that spend far less,” Sanders explained Tuesday, as he announced plans to introduce the American Health Security Act of 2011, would provide federal guidelines and strong minimum standards for states to administer single-payer health care programs. “It is time that we bring about a fundamental transformation of the American health care system. It is time for us to end private, for-profit participation in delivering basic coverage. It is time for the United States to provide a Medicare-for-all single-payer health coverage program.”

Sanders’ plan is the right response to America’s health-care crisis — and any country where tens of millions of citizens lack health-care coverage, where tends of millions more lack adequate coverage and where costs are skyrocketing because of insurance-company profiteering has a crisis.

Don’t get the independent senator wrong. He voted for the health-care reform legislation that passed Congress last year and that was signed by President Obama. He even improved that legislation by fighting to include funding for public-health programs and community clinics.

But Sanders also recognizes flaws in the 2009 reform — which, reformers note, keeps the for-profit private health insurance industry at the center of the U.S. health system. And the senator argues that the ultimate cure for what ails American health care is a “Medicare for All” approach that ends the profiteering and focuses on prevention and treatment of disease.

And he is not alone.

Congressman Jim McDermott, the Washington Democrat who has for two decades been one of the House’s steadiest backers of real health-care reform, will introduce a parallel bill in that chamber. Says McDermott: “The (2010) health care law made big progress towards covering many more people and finding ways to lower cost. However, I think the best way to reduce costs and guarantee coverage for all is through a Single-payer system like Medicare. This bill does just that – it builds on the new health care law by giving states the flexibility they need to go to a single-payer system of their own. It will also reduce costs, and Americans will be healthier.

The Sanders-McDermott initiative in Washington, DC, comes as the Vermont Legislature has taken steps to make the senator’s homestate the first in the nation to develop what advocates desctibe as a state-based variation on the single-payer approach. Vermont. Sanders applauds the move, and thinks it could serve as a national model. Others agree, while noting that Medicare provides another model.

Sanders and McDermott were joined at the announcement of their new “Medicare for All” push by Arlene Baker-Holt, executive vice president of the AFL-CIO; Jean Ross, co-president of the National Nurses United; and Greg Junemann, president of the International Federation of Professional and Technical Engineers. All three groups are encouraging this fight for real reform.

“Providing a single standard of high quality care for all is a priority for registered nurses who have seen their abilities to act as patient advocates made more difficult as for-profit interests control more patient care decisions,” says Ross, whose union has been in the forefront of the fight for single-payer. “We commend Senator Sanders and Representative McDermott for their vision and passion to help registered nurses create a more just healthcare system through the American Health Security Act and applaud our brother and sisters in labor for their support,”

Physicians for a National Health Program, the movement of doctors and medical students for real reform, welcomed the national legislation.

“At a time when the airwaves are filled with talk about cutting or even ending Medicare,” said Dr. Garrett Adams, PNHP president, “Senator Sanders has boldly stepped forward with the seemingly paradoxical proposition that the best way to financially strengthen the Medicare program is to upgrade it and expand it to cover everyone.”

9 Comments

  1. Bryce Babcock on May 12, 2011 at 2:26 pm

    It’s about time!!! This is long overdue. I lived in Canada for 15 years and their single-payer medical system is far superior to what we have in the U.S. Let’s GET IT DONE!!



  2. Kevin Silvey on May 12, 2011 at 3:13 pm

    I have come to realize that this single step would not only reduce the deficit but would provide the uninsured with an esssential “RIGHT”. This is not a privilege as so many would argue. Who are we to judge and determine who dies and who does not??? Peace, Kevin S.



  3. hans cherney on May 12, 2011 at 4:24 pm

    There is only one solution to the Healthcare Insurance problem in the USA and that is the Single Payer System. It’s the best and least expensive! What are we waiting for?



  4. hans cherney on May 12, 2011 at 4:26 pm

    The least expensive adn affordable solution for a good healthcare system in the USA is a Single Payer System or Medicare for All.



  5. David Black MD on May 12, 2011 at 4:45 pm

    It IS about time!!



  6. 4Heavenssake on May 12, 2011 at 7:13 pm

    Go Bernie! You are one of the prime congressional leaders of our nation. Keep on going to help “we, the people.” I think you can probably enlist Kirsten Gillibrand, Dennis Kucinich, Chuck Shumer, Al Franken, Nancy Pelosi and several others as well to lead this crusade on behalf of the American people. It’s time for those who care for us to speak up for us — loudly this time please! We need you to be heard. We need you to make our case in no uncertain terms. We need you to unite with this one message. PLEASE!



  7. haywoodwhy on May 12, 2011 at 7:54 pm

    We need single payer nation wide! Going for single payer nation wide, again, right now, is a great idea because we have just seen all of the crap that is going to be seen, and smelled, floating in the old D.C. political toilet bowl. Let’s flush the toilet this time though, please, because the smell of the rotten politics smells just like something else that belongs in the toilet; and we all know I am not speaking about toilet paper.



  8. Beth Laurer on May 12, 2011 at 11:12 pm

    It is about time we have medicare for all people. There are thousands upon thousands upon thousands upon thousands of people without health insurance. Many companies deliberately hire part-time only, so they don’t have to pay the high cost of health insurance for their employees. As a result, doctor check ups do not happen and sick people do not seek medical attention which in turn leads to more costly problems in the future. The costs can’t be covered by the patients without health insurance or medicare, so those who are struggling to afford health insurane have higher deductables every year. It is about time we have medicare for all people.



  9. Edward Rogers on May 13, 2011 at 4:43 pm

    Hey,the government has got to start doing what the PEOPLE want,NOT as they damb well please! I’ve seen nothing,yet,paralleling this attitude. My health is deteriorating,due to the blatant irresponsibility w/in handling the situation w/healthcare,for the People of this country! “Enough is enough!”