MANCHESTER, N.H. – U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) shared his vision for healthcare reform during a campaign stop at Boards and Brews on Monday afternoon.
Noting that the United States pays twice as much per capita as any other industrialized country on Earth for healthcare, Sanders advocated for an expanded Medicare system that would include no premiums, no co-pays, no deductibles, and no other out-of-pocket expenses excluding an annual limit of $200 on medications.
Sanders also advocated expanding Medicare to include things like dental coverage, eyeglasses and hearing aids.
When explaining how to pay for these expansions, he cited cost savings that would be accrued by combating corruption and price gouging by companies in the healthcare industry as well as a tax that would only impact income above a person’s first $29,000.
Still, Sanders said he expects attack ads from the health insurance industry and other forces seeking to keep the status quo.
“There will be ads on New Hampshire television that say, ‘Bernie Sanders!’ with some creepy voice and a terrible picture of me, ‘wants to raise taxes on the hard-working people of New Hampshire! Don’t let him do it! Call up 1-800 and tell Bernie that he’s a horrible human being,’” said Sanders. “And at the bottom of the ad, you’ll find that it’s paid for by some bogus group funded by the insurance companies that made $100 billion in profits last year.”
Sanders stated that any taxes incurred by most Americans would be greatly overshadowed by reductions in healthcare costs, also expounding on the economic benefit of relieving well-intentioned small businesses that want to offer health insurance to their employees, but can’t and still compete with large corporations that often underpay their employees to make them eligible for government-funded plans.
One example was Steve Rand, a hardware store owner from Plymouth.
Rand’s family has owned the store for three generations and he grew up as a Republican. Over time though, he feels that the Republican Party left him, and 20 years ago had to make the tough choice of either providing his employees healthcare or staying in business.
Today, he knows that he will be unlikely to hire the best employees, because they will either be seeking jobs with healthcare benefits, or they could only work part-time and find another part-time job that offers healthcare benefits.
“To those who say it costs too much, I say we can’t afford not to, because what we have now costs too much,” he said.
Sanders also received feedback from the audience ranging from a need for more charts explaining his policies with a replacement of the tax increase with reduced military spending.
But between the ideas and the various stories from the crowd recalling exorbitant costs for coverage that could mean the difference between life and death, there was a general consensus in the room that action must be taken and there was a general agreement with Sanders that universal healthcare should be considered as a basic human right inherent within any civilized society that has any concern about its citizens.
And when asked how anyone could fight the expected $1 billion in advertisements and other efforts by health insurance and pharmaceutical companies, Sanders said that he believes it will take more than just taking the White House, but an entire movement of average people making their voices heard.
“They will spend money flooding the airwaves,” said Sanders. “But the momentum is with us.”