Sen. Sanders' Medicare-For-All Act: The Time Has Come Today

As the Chambers Brothers might put it, with the introduction of Sen. Bernie Sanders’ Medicare-for-All Act of 2017, the time has come today.

The dream of healthcare reformers for more than a century—and the incredible and unending work of nurses, especially National Nurses United members, to guarantee health care with comprehensive benefits and a single standard of quality care for everyone—is moving a huge step forward.

In a town where the healthcare industry is one of the biggest corporate spenders in campaign contributions and lobbying, and resistance to transformative reform was widespread, today 15 senators have signed on as co-sponsors to Sen. Sanders bill, concurrent with a majority of House Democrats now co-sponsoring a longtime House single payer bill, Rep. John Conyers’ HR 676.

The seismic shift is a direct product of how Sen. Sanders made Medicare for all, and healthcare as a human right, such a signature issue of his campaign. How his campaign, inspired, animated and activated millions of people, especially young people. And, how the enduring work of nurses and other healthcare activists over many years have laid the seeds for this day.

It’s also a reflection of the state of healthcare in the U.S. For every mean spirited proposal, laced with a callous “you’re on your own” ideology, advanced by those pushing to roll back the advances achieved under the ACA, there is a point to remember: The attacks on the ACA gained traction in part because there is an ongoing health emergency for millions of people—the 28 million who the latest census figures report remain uninsured, and the millions more who struggle every day with how to pay their medical bills and face the painful choice of what else to go without.

Here’s a story one of our NNU leaders, Martha Kuhl, who works in a Northern California children’s hospital, relates:

We had a little girl with a brain tumor. Her parents were doing everything possible. But they were having great difficulty because not only did they not have great health insurance, but they lived far away from a large pediatric center that could give their daughter the care she needed. They had transportation issues, they couldn’t afford some of the medications their child would need. But then, because they were doing everything they could to help their child, they came into the hospital one day and said, "We just got evicted for not paying our rent." Imagine a parent desperate for their child to get the care they need, desperate for their child to survive a very serious illness, then becoming homeless. That’s what a lack of healthcare can do.

Sadly, this family is not alone. There are far, far too many in our country who have been left behind by a system held in the iron grip of a ruthless healthcare industry whose priority is squeezing out as much profit as they can for their shareholders, or their executive pay packages, or their stock market rating.

Families like this are the reason nurses will never stop fighting to guarantee everyone, regardless of age, gender, race, nationally, economic status or where they live is guaranteed safe, quality care when and where they need it.

Today’s bill introduction is the crest of a wave, but it’s also a new beginning. Nurses will continue to press this issue, calling on all Senators to sign on, and to challenge those who will stand in the way of enacting the healthcare system we need.

We know, as polls have shown, the public is with us, now it is time for all elected leaders to take a stand because too many are continual harm under the present system, and as Bernie would say, "Enough is enough. Let’s enact Medicare for all.”


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