Yesterday, Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) introduced a universal single-payer health care bill in the U.S. Senate. There’s been a proposal for years in the House with 90+ co-sponsors, H.R. 676 by Rep. John Conyers. But it’s progress to also have a vehicle in the U.S. Senate, which I don’t think has had one since that of the late Senator Paul Wellstone of Minnesota.
While there’s only one Senate sponsor at the moment, it’s good to have such a proposal on the table and in the discussion, just as in the California legislature with SB810 (Leno). There are political and procedural obstacles to this or any health reform at both levels: 60 votes in the U.S. Senate; 2/3 vote in the legislature for financing. But the bill allows policymakers to work on the policy, better understand the trade-offs and the politics, and figure out issues like an appropriate transition. It also is an organizing tool and a possible vision for the future
Some supporters will use the bill as a platform to argue against any other reform; Those of us who support single-payer can be more productive if this bill is used to advance key principles and key provisions in the health reform discussion at large. The long-term fight for single-payer can be complementary with the immediate push for more immediate health care reform this year.