It’s time for Medicare for All

By Sen. Bernie Sanders

May 12, 2022

The United States has the most dysfunctional, inefficient, bureaucratic and expensive health care system in the world. 

That’s not just what I believe.  That’s what the American people know to be true. According to a March 2022 survey by Gallup and West Health, an estimated 93 percent of American adults feel what they pay for health care is not worth the cost.  That poll also showed that 64 percent of Americans are dissatisfied with the availability of affordable health care.

Today, according to the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), we now spend an unbelievable $12,530 per person for health care. Yes. $12,530 for every man, woman and child in this country. 

Despite this huge expenditure, 30 million Americans have no insurance at all and 112 million struggle to pay for the health care they need.

Further, we pay, by far, the highest prices in the world for prescription drugs with nearly 1 out of 4 patients unable to fill the prescriptions their doctors write.

Despite spending more than twice as much on healthcare as the average developed country our health outcomes are worse than most.  For example, our life expectancy is about 4.5 years lower than Germany’s and we have the highest infant mortality rate of almost any major country on earth.

While the current system is not working for ordinary Americans, it is working VERY well for insurance and drug companies and their CEOs.  

Last year, the six largest health insurance companies in America made over $60 billion in profits, led by the UnitedHealth Group, which made $24 billion in 2021. The CEOs of 178 major health care companies collectively made $3.2 billion in total compensation in 2020 – up 31% from 2019.  

According to Axios, in 2020, the CEO of Cigna, David Cordani, took home $79 million; the CEO of Centene, Michael Neidorff, made $59 million; and the CEO of UnitedHealth Group, Dave Wichmann, received $42 million in total compensation.

In terms of the pharmaceutical industry, last year Pfizer, Johnson & Johnson and AbbVie – three giant pharmaceutical companies – increased their profits by over 90 percent to $54 billion and the CEOs of just 8 prescription drug companies made $350 million in total compensation in 2020.

The Medicare for All Act of 2022 which I have just introduced with 15 co-sponsors would provide comprehensive health care coverage to every man, woman and child in our country – without out-of-pocket expenses and with full freedom of choice regarding health care providers. No more insurance premiums, deductibles or co-payments. And comprehensive means the coverage of dental care, vision, hearing aids, prescription drugs and home and community based care.

The transition to the Medicare-for-all program would take place over four years. In the first year, benefits to older people would be expanded to include dental care, vision coverage and hearing aids, and the eligibility age for Medicare would be lowered to 55. All children under the age of 18 would also be covered.  

In the second year, the eligibility age would be lowered to 45 and in the third year to 35. By the fourth year, every man, woman and child in the country would be covered by Medicare for All.