Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders is making big promises and raising the expectations of liberal voters on health care.
On Wednesday, Sanders will formally unveil the 2017 version of his “Medicare-for-all” legislation, shifting talk of single payer on Capitol Hill from an abstract conversation over whether the government should provide universal health coverage to a concrete discussion of a specific bill. With Republicans in control of Congress, single payer won’t pass, but supporters hope the legislation will increase public support, and political will, for an idea that has long been considered a long-shot liberal dream in the United States.
In an indication of how far the Democratic Party has moved left on health care, high-profile Democratic senators and potential 2020 contenders, including Kamala Harris, Elizabeth Warren, and Cory Booker, announced they would co-sponsor the bill before it was even made public. The last time Sanders introduced a “Medicare-for-all” bill in 2013, he had zero co-sponsors in the Senate. This time, 15 Democrats are co-sponsoring the bill so far in addition to Sanders, according to an aide.
“Sanders’s bill represents an important shift in where the Democrats have been on health-care reform for the past 25 years,” said Jonathan Oberlander, a professor of social medicine and health policy and management at the University of North California-Chapel Hill. “Democrats thinking of running in 2020 for the presidency will have to decide whether to embrace his proposal or risk alienating Sanders voters and the party’s liberal base.”