Sanders Calls State of US Health Care an “International Embarrassment”

Following the release of a recent poll finding that Americans have very little faith in the quality of the U.S. health care system, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont) took to the Senate floor on Tuesday to once again call for the passage of Medicare for All.

“While it is not discussed much in the corporate media or here in the halls of Congress, we have, today, in the United States, the most inefficient, bureaucratic, and expensive health care system in the world,” Sanders said. “And that’s not just what I believe. That is what the American people know to be true because of their lived experience.”

The lawmaker cited a recent Associated Press/NORC poll released on Monday which found that over 80 percent of Americans are at least moderately concerned about accessing health care when they need it. Sanders highlighted findings that only 12 percent of Americans think health care is handled “very” or “extremely” well in the U.S., that only 6 percent believe prescription drug costs are handled that way and that opinions about the quality of mental health care are similarly low at just 5 percent.

The largely private health care system, he said, makes the U.S. an “international embarrassment” when you take into account the fact that every other wealthy country in the world has universal health care.

Sanders further said that the poll shows that there appears to be majority support among Americans for Medicare for All or some form of guaranteed health care. About 66 percent of respondents said that it is up to the federal government to ensure that all Americans have health insurance, while 86 percent say that Medicare should include dental, vision and hearing.

Despite being the wealthiest country in history, he said, the U.S. still sees thousands of deaths and unnecessary suffering due to the country’s inequitable health care system.

Meanwhile, the life expectancy of the rich is far longer than that of the average American, he pointed out – partly because health care costs are simply unaffordable to millions of Americans, who either have to take out medical debt or put off getting prescriptions filled or visiting a doctor because of the associated costs.

“Sickness should not be a cause of financial ruin,” Sanders said.

Even if people try to seek out health care, he added, it can be hard to find a provider, given the shortage of doctors, dental hygienists, nurses, and other critical health care workers. On the other hand, however, there are “more than enough people,” Sanders said, to send bills to people and hound them over money owed.

According to Sanders, the reasons for these inefficiencies and inequities is explained by the greed of the health insurance and pharmaceutical companies; profits of Pfizer, Johnson and Johnson and AbbVie increased more than 90 percent last year to over $54 billion.

“If you want to know why we are stuck with a dysfunctional health care system that fails the American people but that makes the drug companies and the insurance companies wildly profitable, follow the money,” he said, pointing out that the private health care sector has spent over $10 billion in lobbying since 1998, including over $1.7 billion on campaign contributions.

The Vermont progressive concluded by advocating for the passage of his Medicare for All bill that he most recently introduced last May. If passed, it would establish a single-payer health care system that would guarantee health coverage for every American in every clinic or health facility.

“Maybe, just maybe, now is the time for Congress to do what the American people want, not what the lobbyists want, not what the drug companies want, not what the insurance companies want. And maybe, just maybe, we should have the courage to take on powerful special interests who dominate health care in the United States,” Sanders concluded. “And maybe, just maybe, now is the time to provide health care to every man, woman and child as a human right by passing a Medicare for All single payer program.”