KADNER: Sanders and the new crusade for national health insurance

SHARE KADNER: Sanders and the new crusade for national health insurance

As Bernie Sanders revealed his latest plan for single-payer national health insurance on Wednesday, he was joined by Sen. Elizabeth Warren and just about every other Senate colleague mentioned as a potential Democratic presidential candidate in 2020.


In 2013, when Sanders proposed a similar measure, he couldn’t find a single co-sponsor. He has 15 Senate co-sponsors backing the new legislation. Fifty-three percent of Americans now support national health care, according to a poll by the Kaiser Foundation.

Single-payer national health insurance, sometimes referred to as Medicare for all, is not a crazy idea.

Working stiffs lucky enough to have insurance through their employers pay ever-increasing premiums, larger co-pays and deductibles and often don’t know what their policies actually cover in the event of illness. But many Americans can no longer count on getting health insurance through their employers because the cost is prohibitive.

The largest health insurance companies made more than $12 billion in profits last year. The compensation of their CEOs often topped $10 million a year. The boss of Centene Corp. led the pack at $21 million, and the head of UnitedHealth Group made $17 million.

Those insurance company profits do nothing to improve your health care. They do not make your doctors better or buy new equipment for hospitals. But all that money could be used to help subsidize a national health care system.

Those opposed to universal health coverage like to claim that if the government ever takes over, “death panels” will decide who gets treated and who does not.

Well, those panels exist right now. They’re employed by health insurance companies. They get to call the shots on whether your treatment is going to be paid for, how long you can stay in a hospital and the length of rehabilitation once you are home.

They can even decide what hospitals they will include in their plans and which ones they will not, limiting your family’s access to the best health care in a crisis.

President Donald Trump’s administration called Sanders’ plan for single-payer health care a “horrible idea,” although the president has yet to propose any plan of his own for shoring up Obamacare (which he has called “a disaster”).

Sanders often refers to his idea as Medicare for all. But Sanders’ new plan seeks improvements to Medicare so supplemental plans, often purchased by seniors, would no longer be needed. In its first year it would expand coverage for older people to dental care, vision care and hearing aids, essential for older people.

The single-payer plan Sanders proposes would go into effect over a four-year period and cover everyone, beginning with people under the age of 18 in the first year.

I can understand the concerns of people worried about government incompetence and waste. But this nation already spends more per person on health care than any other country in the world for a health care system that often has worse outcomes and does not cover everyone.

Republicans had claimed for decades that they could easily fix what was wrong with the existing private health insurance system. But since gaining control of the House, Senate and White House it is apparent that was pure baloney designed to appease the masses. They have no plan.

The call for national health care coverage dates back to the days of Theodore Roosevelt.

It isn’t going to happen without massive public support. The forces opposed have money and political clout and have undermined every effort to pass national health care in the past.

Obamacare was a flawed compromise. But it made health insurance companies provide coverage for people with pre-existing conditions. Remember, they didn’t want to insure people who were really sick, and the people now opposed to national health care did nothing about it.

Email: philkadner@gmail.com

Send letters to letters@suntimes.com.

The Latest
The 3-year-old was killed while riding in a car with his mother Friday night in the West Lawn neighborhood. The 7-year-old boy was wounded while on his way to church with his family.
After a miserable, injury-plagued debut season, Johnson benefitted from a long-awaited full summer. But at age 32, it remains to be seen how similar he’ll be to his former self.
The man, 46, was taken to Stroger Hospital in good condition, police said.
Dan Coleman caught and released his lifetime muskie in Wisconsin’s Northwoods to earn Fish of the Week.
There are just two Republicans on the 17-member Cook County Board: Sean Morrison and Peter Silvestri, who is not running for re-election. Morrison knows the board is vulnerable to losing a conservative voice, which he argues serves as a check on power. “I’m very worried,” he said.