Politics

Single Payer Democrats: Save Obamacare Now, Single Payer Later

Comes as Cassidy-Graham revives Republican hopes of repeal

Democratic senators who threw their support behind single-payer health care last week are prioritizing the 2010 health care law as Republicans take one more crack at repealing it.

At an event with Democratic senators and liberal activists, independent Sen. Bernie Sanders, who sponsored the single-payer bill, criticized Republicans for trying to ram through a health care proposal from Sens. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, Bill Cassidy of Louisiana, Dean Heller of Nevada and Ron Johnson of Wisconsin.

“The overwhelming majority of Democrats, independents and Republicans understand that in the United States of America we must not take away the lifeline of health insurance from millions of our people,” he said.

Sanders also made a pitch for universal health care during his speech.

“It goes without saying that in the year 2017, we should be talking about health care as a right for all people, not a privilege,” he said.

UNITED STATES - SEPTEMBER 19: Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., raises his fist as rally attendees chant "Bernie" following his speech to the rally at the Capitol on Tuesday, Sept. 19, 2017. Senate Democrats held the rally to oppose the Senate Republicans’s effort to repeal the Affordable Care Act with the Graham-Cassidy proposal. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)
Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., raises his fist as rally attendees chant “Bernie” following his speech to the rally at the Capitol on Tuesday, Sept. 19, 2017. Senate Democrats held the rally to oppose the Senate Republicans’ effort to repeal the Affordable Care Act with the Graham-Cassidy proposal. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Sen. Jeff Merkley of Oregon, a co-sponsor of the single-payer legislation, said many of his constituents at town halls still find the health care system stressful.

“We have to change that [to] a simple seamless system,” he said. “But right now, we have no other task but saving what we have which is incredible, vast and light years ahead of what we had before.”

New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker, another co-sponsor of the legislation, said it was important now to keep focus on protecting the current health law.

“Let’s have one fight at a time,” he said. “Right now there’s a threat, which is a bill that could erode health care for tens of millions of people and that’s something that we all need to unify behind.”

Sen. Kamala Harris of California said it is possible the push by Republicans might get more people to consider the single-payer legislation that she co-sponsored with the other Democrats.

“I think that there is no question that we need to continue the conversation and the debate as it relates to the Affordable Care Act and access for all Americans to health care,” she said.

Harris also said it was possible to balance preserving the health care law while promoting single payer.

“One is not to the exclusion of the other,” she said. “I think that people have the ability to engage in all of those conversations.”

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