Sanders: Medicare Expansion Good for ‘Single-Payer’ Advocates

By Britt

Dec 10, 2009 2:28pm

ABC News’ Rick Klein reports: Sen. Bernie Sanders, a Vermont independent who’s a strong supporter of “single-payer” health care, is waiting for more details before deciding whether to support the latest compromise under consideration in the Senate.
But while he’s disappointed that Senate appears ready to jettison the public option, he said on ABC’s “Top Line” today that he’s intrigued by a “trade-off” that would make Medicare available to those as young as 55.
Regarding a public option, Sanders said: “If it’s not in there, I am not sympathetic to this legislation. The question is what kind of trade-off will take place. There is some discussion, as you know, about lowering the age for what is called a Medicare opt-in, to enable people 55 to 65 to be able to at least — through their own purchase of premiums — be able to get Medicare-type benefits. This is a strong — this is an important step forward.” Addressing grass-roots liberal groups — including — that are opposing the latest deal because it doesn’t include a strong public option, he said: “The truth is what most of these organizations believe, and what I believe, is that [if] at the end of the day you want to provide comprehensive, universal and cost-effective health care to every man, woman, and child in our country — you know what? You’re going to need a Medicare-for-all single-payer system,” Sanders said. He said he’s planning to offer an amendment to the bill that would establish a single-payer system, though such an amendment stands virtually no chance of passing the Senate. In yet another hurdle to passage, Sanders is part of a group of lawmakers who are trying to eliminate a new tax on high-end health care plans that’s part of the Senate bill. “In a few years the so-called Cadillac-plan tax will really be a Chevy tax; it will impact millions of American workers. In the House of Representatives they did the right thing, and they said, ‘Look, the richest people in this country received huge tax breaks under Bush — let’s ask that top 3/10 of 1 percent to pay more in taxes.’ But the Senate has said — against my views — ‘Let’s tax middle-class health care benefits.’ I think that’s wrong. I want to see us support what they did in the House.” Sanders also said he’s frustrated by the secrecy and pace of Senate health care negotiations: “Sure it is — this whole process is frustrating,” Sanders said. “The way the Senate works is frustrating. But what goes on here, and I think you have to understand where the [Senate Majority] Leader [Harry Reid] is coming from, he says I can’t give you a plan until it is scored by the [Congressional Budget Office]. … And if I tell the American people we’re doing that and then three days later I say, ‘Oh, guess what, we’re not doing that,’ then people are really confused. So I’m not hard on the leader in that regard.” “But this whole process — what really bothers me is I think the American people want strong health care reform. They want to really take it to the private insurance companies and the drug companies. And I worry very much that we do not have, as a Senate, the strength to do what the American people want.” Watch the full interview with Sen. Bernie Sanders HERE. We also checked in with Politico’s Jonathan Martin on today’s program, to talk about the latest in the health care debate, plus President Obama’s speech accepting the Nobel Peace Prize today. Watch that discussion HERE.  

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