Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) announced Thursday that she’ll support Sen. Bernie Sanders’s (I-VT) upcoming single-payer health care bill — an idea once deemed far outside the Democratic Party’s mainstream.
In an email to supporters, Warren asked her supporters to sign a petition expressing support for Sanders’s Medicare-for-all legislation, which is expected to be released next week.
The announcement makes Warren the second Democrat to endorse Sanders’s bill. Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) — who, like Warren, is seen as a likely 2020 presidential candidate — did so at a forum in California in late August.
“There is something fundamentally wrong when one of the richest and most powerful countries on the planet can’t make sure that a person can afford to see a doctor when they’re sick. This isn’t any way to live,” Warren said in the email. “Health care is a basic human right and it’s time to fight for it.”
Sanders’s staff is still putting the finishing touches on the legislation, but it is largely expected to resemble the one from his 2016 presidential campaign. Hillary Clinton was dismissive of that proposal, saying single-payer would “never, ever happen."
But the Democratic Party has moved swiftly to the left on health care since the election. Most key 2020 contenders — including Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) and Cory Booker (D-NJ) — have said they support the idea of single-payer without necessarily backing Sanders’s bill or an existing bill. More than half of House Democrats now support Rep. John Conyers’s (D-MI) single-payer bill — a historic high.
"During Obama's term, Democrats were uncomfortable with anything that might look like something other than full-throated support of the Affordable Care Act, and they didn't want to do anything that might undermine the president," said Dan Riffle, Conyers's senior legislative assistant, in an interview this March. "But many members who weren't on the bill, who have had their phones ringing off the hook, are now expressing interest. It's percolating from the ground up."
A “working group” of roughly 10 Democratic policy staffers is currently working on the final version of the bill; it is expected to be very similar to Conyers’s bill, explained at length here.
Read Warren’s letter in full below:
When the Republicans tried to repeal the Affordable Care Act and gut Medicaid, I heard from parents all across Massachusetts who were terrified about what it would mean for their children.
One message kept hitting home: If the government hadn’t been there to help, these hard-working moms and dads would have been forced to pick between the health of their child and financial ruin. Their families would have been destroyed.
There is something fundamentally wrong when one of the richest and most powerful countries on the planet can’t make sure that a person can afford to see a doctor when they’re sick. This isn’t any way to live.
I believe it’s time to take a step back and ask: what is the best way to deliver high quality, low cost health care to all Americans? Everything should be on the table – and that’s why I’m co-sponsoring Bernie Sanders’ Medicare for All bill that will be introduced later this month.
My own family plunged deep into debt when my daddy had a heart attack. My parents paid on those bills for years. Years later, as a bankruptcy law professor, I studied why working families were going broke. Through interviews and court documents, my research partners and I showed that most people who file for bankruptcy looked a lot like my family.
The overwhelming majority had once been solidly middle class – and about half had filed for bankruptcy in the aftermath of a serious medical problem. And here was the kicker: about three-quarters of them had health insurance – but it just wasn’t enough. Medical bankruptcy was crushing millions of American families.
The Affordable Care Act changed everything – and President Obama deserves tremendous credit. Consider what health care reforms have accomplished:
- Insurance companies are barred from denying people with preexisting conditions
- The caps on insurance coverage are gone so help doesn’t run out after a few chemo treatments or a long hospital stay
- Young people can stay on their parents' insurance until age 26
- Small business get tax breaks for providing health care
- Insurance companies can no longer discriminate against women
We owe a huge debt to President Obama. Because of the Affordable Care Act, health care coverage is better – more people can get the treatment they need and families are less vulnerable to the financial fallout from a serious illness or accident. Senate Democrats will keep doing everything we can to stop Donald Trump, Mitch McConnell and the Republicans from rolling back these gains. They are too important for all of us.
But there’s so much more we could do right now to bring down the costs of quality health care for every American. We could start by ending health insurance company price gouging – ending high deductibles, surprise bills, and endless fights with insurance companies over coverage for critical medical procedures or out-of-pocket costs. We could also cut the cost of prescription drugs by importing drugs from Canada, where the same prescription can sometimes cost far less than in the US. Bipartisan improvements are possible – in fact, just a few weeks ago, President Trump signed my bill with Republican Chuck Grassley to make hearing aids more affordable by allowing certain hearing aids to be sold over the counter.
Medicare for All is one way that we can give every single person in the country access to high quality health care. Everyone is covered. Nobody goes broke paying a medical bill. Families don’t have to bear the costs of heartbreaking medical disasters on their own.
The American people have made it clear that they believe health care is a basic human right – but it will be a tough fight. The giant insurance and drug companies will send out their army of lobbyists to fight our Medicare for All bill every step of the way. Sign up now to join our fight and become a citizen co-sponsor of Medicare for All and fight back.
Thanks for being a part of this,