Where Is Bernie Sanders' Single-Payer Health Care Plan?

May 25, 2017

At a town hall meeting on March 25, Sen. Bernie Sanders told Vermonters that he would introduce legislation to create a single-payer health care system “within a few weeks.” Two months later, Sanders has introduced no such legislation.

According to congress.gov, Sanders has sponsored five pieces of legislation since March 25: the “Inclusive Prosperity Act of 2017,” the “College for All Act of 2017,” the “Keep Our Pension Promises Act,” the “WORK Act” and the “United States Employee Ownership Bank Act.”

Those bills are designed to advance Sanders’ progressive agenda, but none of them would create a national single-payer health care system.

In an email to VPR, Sanders spokesman Josh Miller-Lewis said, “[w]e’re working on the bill and are looking to introduce it this summer.”

Sanders said in March that his bill could appeal to Republicans, but Congressman Peter Welch said that the current Republican-controlled Congress “won’t pass it.”

Vermont’s junior senator introduced a single-payer bill in 2011, and acknowledged then that he thought its passage was unlikely.

"I'm not holding my breath and thinking that the United States Congress is going to pass a Medicare-for-all single-payer program now,” Sanders said in 2011. “But I think it is terribly important that we maintain the vision where this country will someday come to, and that is that health care is a right for all people. Whether you're rich, whether you're poor, you are entitled to the best quality health care that the system can offer."

So far in 2017, Sanders’ push for what he calls a “Medicare-for-all” system has taken the form of political rhetoric, not legislative action.