Twelfth Dem Backs Sanders’ Single-Payer Bill

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Robert Donachie Capitol Hill and Health Care Reporter
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WASHINGTON, D.C. — Democratic Sen. Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut threw his support behind Sen. Bernie Sanders’ single-payer health care bill Tuesday, making him the twelfth senator to back Sanders in his push for “Medicaid-for-All.”

“My reason for the Sanders Medicaid-for-All bill is that health care ought to be a clear right, not an exorbitant luxury. There should be no question about what our goal is, which is to provide access to everyone. This has nothing to do with the politics of the moment,” Blumenthal told reporters Tuesday at the Capitol.

The idea of a single-payer health care system was once thought to be well outside the mainstream ideological bend of the Democratic Party, but Blumenthal, like many of his colleagues, thinks that single-payer is “an idea whose time has come.”

“We have been very cognitive and careful. The Affordable Care Act has served many, many Americans well. In no way are we scrapping it, we are building on it,” Blumenthal told reporters.

Sanders is expected to roll out his proposal for single-payer as early as Wednesday. The bill would create a federally administered single-payer health care program.

In a single-payer system, it is the government, not private insurance companies or individuals, that pays out roughly the entire cost of health care.

The Vermont senator already has the backing of Sens. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, Kamala Harris of California, Brian Schatz of Hawaii, Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin, Patrick Leahy of Vermont, Ed Markey of Massachusetts, Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island,Kirsten Gillibrand of New York, Cory Booker of New Jersey, Jeff Merkley of Oregon and Mazie Hirono of Hawaii.

While it has some support, not everyone in Congress sees single-payer passing, or even views it as a good idea on the part of Democrats.

“I think they are making the mistake of a lifetime, but I think that is where their party is moving,” Rep. Tom Cole of Oklahoma told reporters Tuesday. Cole said that, while he sees it as a dangerous move, he hears his constituents in conservative districts float the idea of single-payer in town hall meetings.

“I think they are responding where their voters are. I think most of them look at Obamacare, and privately would tell you if they had to do it all over again and knew they would suffer all the pain they suffered, they would do single-payer,” Cole said. “They are going to have to vote for it sooner or later, and it will be interesting to see how much actual support it has.”

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