MONTPELIER — Sen. Bernie Sanders is preparing to introduce legislation that would create a Medicare for all health system in the U.S. as Republicans in Congress continue efforts to dismantle the federal Affordable Care Act.
Sanders, an independent and a former candidate for the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination, has been a longtime advocate for a single-payer health care system.
He has been a staunch opponent of the health care legislation being crafted by Republican senators that the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office says could cause 22 million Americans to lose health coverage over the next decade.
The GOP health plan seeks to eliminate taxes on the wealthy and medical companies that help pay for the health insurance of lowincome Americans. It would also drastically reduce spending on Medicaid, a state-federal program that provides health coverage to low-income and disabled Americans.
Republicans have repeatedly sought to “repeal and replace” the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, since it was signed into law by former Democratic President Barack Obama in 2010.
Sanders tweeted this week that he plans to introduce his legislation after the GOP health plan debate concludes.
“We do not need to throw 22 million off health insurance. We need Medicare for all, and I will introduce that as soon as this debate is over,” Sanders tweeted.
Medicare is a single-payer health care system that has been offered to Americans 65 and older and some people with disabilities since 1966. The system is funded by a payroll tax and premiums and covers nearly 60 million people.
Sanders, in another tweet, said the country should make interim health care reforms until a Medicare-for-all system is enacted.
“In the short term, to improve the Affordable Care Act, we should have a public option in 50 states and lower the Medicare age to 55,” he wrote.
Josh Miller-Lewis, a spokesman for Sanders, said the bill Sanders will introduce is “almost ready to go” and has been worked on for the past few months. A “number of senators” have expressed interest in cosponsoring the legislation, he said.
Exactly when Sanders will introduce his bill remains unclear, however.
“I wish I had a better timeline than that, but we don’t know yet when Republicans will drop their effort to repeal the ACA,” Miller-Lewis said.
Fellow Vermont Sen. Patrick Leahy has seen draft versions of the legislation and could be a co-sponsor after the legislation is finalized, spokesman David Carle said. Leahy has “long been a supporter of single payer,” Carle said.
Sanders has introduced legislation to create a national single-payer health system 12 times since 1993, according to Miller-Lewis. His previous bills were all referred to legislative committees but were not taken up by either chamber of Congress.