Sanders would make government role in health care even bigger


Associated Press

WASHINGTON

In an animated, campaign-style rally, Sen. Bernie Sanders unwrapped his plan to remake the nation’s convoluted health care system into federally run health insurance Wednesday – a costly proposal embraced by liberal activists hoping to steer the Democratic Party in upcoming elections.

The Vermont independent’s plan would hand government a dominant role in insuring Americans, a crucial step, he said, in guaranteeing health care for all. Census Bureau data this week showed the proportion of people lacking policies falling to 8.8 percent last year under Obamacare, the lowest level recorded, but he called it an “international disgrace” that not all Americans have coverage.

Though Sanders’ plan is going nowhere in the current GOP-controlled Congress, he drew a big crowd to a packed and electrified Senate hearing room.

Hours earlier, Republican senators unveiled their own last-ditch, long-shot plan to scuttle President Barack Obama’s 2010 statute and practically begged the White House to help.

“Pick up the phone” and ask governors to support the repeal effort, said Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., aiming his remarks at President Donald Trump. “Tell them this matters to you, that you weren’t kidding about repealing and replacing Obamacare, that you actually meant it.”

Shortly afterward, Trump issued a statement saying “I sincerely hope” the effort by Graham and three other GOP senators will succeed.

The waning desire of GOP lawmakers to revive their failed effort to scrap Obama’s law contrasted with growing, though wary, Democratic support for Sanders’ bill. It has attracted 16 co-sponsors, one-third of all Senate Democrats, though most are from safely Democratic states.

“Today we begin the long and difficult struggle to end the international disgrace of the United States, our great nation, being the only major country on Earth not to guarantee health care to all,” Sanders declared.

Though his bill has no chance in the current Congress, the issue is enthusiastically backed by large segments of a Democratic Party hoping to capture House control in the 2018 elections. Sanders caucuses with Democrats and unexpectedly gave Hillary Clinton a tough run for the party’s presidential nomination last year.

The room where Sanders spoke held more than 200 people, including members of unions and progressive groups. Many waved posters and chanted “Medicare for all,” the name he has given his 96-page bill, which would gradually expand the health insurance program for the elderly to cover all Americans.

Nine other senators attended and most also spoke, including at least four potential 2020 presidential aspirants who almost seemed to be auditioning. Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., called the health care battle “a fight for our nation to live up to our ideals.”

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