San­ders pro­poses na­tional health care plan


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 ever 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, onethird 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.

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