Washington – Sens. Richard Blumenthal and Chris Murphy were split on Wednesday over Sen. Bernie Sanders’ proposal to expand Medicare into a universal health insurance program.
Blumenthal was one of nine Democrats with Sanders, I-Vt., when he introduced his “Medicare for All” bill at a Capitol Hill press conference Wednesday.
Murphy said he prefers a plan where Americans have a choice between private insurance and a government-run plan.
Under Sanders’ plan, those under 18 would immediately be covered in a government-run plan that would cover everything from emergency surgery to eye care, with no co-payments. Those older than 18 would be phased into an expanded Medicare program, the government-run health care plan for the aged, over four years.
The program would be paid for by higher taxes, which Sanders said would cost individuals and businesses less than the health premium costs and other medical expenses they pay now.
Private insurers would remain, with fewer customers, to pay for elective treatments.
Murphy, meanwhile, said he supports the idea of a “single-payer,” government-run system, but that there should be a “bridge” between the private insurer-based system we have now to one that’s run entirely by the government.
Interviewed on MSNBC, Murphy said, “It makes no sense for a person’s health care to be tied to an employer.”
He said he would take “a hard look” at Sanders’ proposal, but also said, “I think we’re having a really important conversation about how we get” to a” Medicare for All” system.
“I’ve introduced a different concept to allow every American to buy into Medicare and essentially allow consumers to decide whether they want private insurance or Medicare,” Murphy said. “My belief is that given that choice, consumers would choose Medicare, and it would allow for a more natural transition into a single-payer system.”
Blumenthal wants immediate change.
“Access to affordable healthcare should be a clear right, not an exorbitant luxury,” he said. “No one should endure sleepless nights terrified by a lack of healthcare because of how much they make or where they live.”
The Sanders proposal has about 12 co-sponsors in the Senate besides Blumenthal.
But Democratic party leaders, including House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer have declined to endorse it.