Shortly following Sen. Susan Collins‘ (R-Maine) announcement that she plans to vote against the latest iteration of Trumpcare—likely dealing a death blow to deeply unpopular legislation that was already teetering on the edge of collapse—Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) piled it on the GOP Monday night in a CNN-hosted debate against the principal architects of the floundering bill, Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Bill Cassidy (R-La.).
— RoseAnn DeMoro (@RoseAnnDeMoro) September 26, 2017
“Our job as a humane society is to do a couple of things,” Sanders said in the heat of a dispute with Cassidy over his bill’s proposed cuts to Medicaid. “It’s not to throw 30 million people off of health insurance. It’s to do what every other major country on Earth does, guarantee healthcare to all people as a right. That’s what we should be doing.”
As Common Dreams reported last week, many Democratic officials and pundits expressed concerns about Sanders’ decision to partipate in Monday’s debate, worrying that his push for Medicare for All would distract from the immediate task of defeating Republican attempts to repeal the Affordable Care Act.
Sanders quickly proved these warnings to be entirely unfounded, however, as he deftly weaved between discussing the necessity of defeating the GOP’s deeply unpopular plan, passing short-term fixes to Obamacare, and fighting for an ambitious alternative, embodied in the Medicare for All bill he—along with 16 Democratic co-sponsors—introduced earlier this month.
Though Klobuchar is one of the Democratic senators who has not sponsored Sanders’ bill, the two senators aligned in defense of Planned Parenthood, Medicaid, and key provisions of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) that protect people with preexisting conditions.
“One in five women get their healthcare from Planned Parenthood. And I am strongly opposed to this bill’s provisions to defund Planned Parenthood,” Klobuchar said, adding also a defense of the ACA’s essential benefits requirements.
Republicans, Sanders added, “want to tell 2.5 million women in the United States of America who today choose Planned Parenthood to get their healthcare they can’t do that.”
Republicans talk about choice, but they want to deny millions of women the right to choose Planned Parenthood for care. #HealthCareDebate
— Bernie Sanders (@SenSanders) September 26, 2017
While much of the debate centered around Sanders’ and Klobuchar’s critique of the GOP’s “absurd” bill and Graham’s rebuttal that Medicare for All—and even tweaks to Obamacare—amounts to creeping socialism, there was at least one point of agreement: the current healthcare system puts too much money in the pockets of massive insurance companies.
After Graham rattled off the stock increases of insurance giants like Cigna, Anthem, and Aetna, Sanders replied: “See, Lindsey, there it is. You actually said something that was right.”
“This system is designed to make billions of dollars in profits for the insurance industry,” Sanders concluded. “So if we are serious about moving to a cost-effective universal healthcare, yeah, we do have to take on the insurance companies. They do not play a role in providing healthcare. Our money should be going to doctors, to nurses, to hospitals, not to the insurance industry or, in fact, the drug industry, which is charging us by far the highest prices in the world.”
— CNN Politics (@CNNPolitics) September 26, 2017
Top photo | Sen. Bill Cassidy, R-La., center, listens as Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., left, speaks, accompanied by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Ky., on Capitol Hill, Tuesday, Sept. 19, 2017 in Washington. (AP/Alex Brandon)
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