Sen. Bernard Sanders of Vermont said the coronavirus crisis is exposing gaps in the nation’s “cruel” and “dysfunctional” health care system that leaves millions of people without coverage when they need it most and millions of others more susceptible to contracting the virus.
Mr. Sanders said the virus is helping the public come to grips with the fact that it is time to make fundamental changes to the economy and health care system that lifts up the working-class, calling for paid family leave, overhauled trade deals and a guarantee of health coverage.
“In my view, the most cost-effective way to reform our dysfunctional and cruel system is to move to a Medicare for All single-payer health care system and I think in the midst of this crisis more and more Americans understand the truth of that,” Mr. Sanders said at a press conference in his hometown of Burlington, Vermont. “It is nearly impossible to believe that anyone can still think it is acceptable to continue with a health care system that leaves tens of millions of people uninsured.”
“The cruelty and absurdity of that view is more obvious in the midst of this crisis,” he said. “Let’s be clear, the lack of health care and affordable medicine does not only threaten the health and well-being of the uninsured, it impacts everyone who comes in contact with them. In fact, what this crisis is beginning to teach us is that we are only as safe as the least insured person in America.”
Fears over the virus have changed the contours of the 2020 presidential race, with Mr. Sanders and former Vice President Joe Biden taking the advice of health officials and deciding against holding campaign rallies and events with large numbers of people.
Mr. Sanders and Mr. Biden are set to appear in their first one-on-one debate Sunday.
Citing concerns over coronavirus, the Democratic National Committee and the event sponsors, CNN and Univision, announced the debate would be moved from Phoenix to Washington, D.C., and that there would be no live audience.
Consequently, Mr. Sanders has relied on getting his message out at press conferences this week that have been streamed online and picked up by cable news networks.
On Friday, Mr. Sanders said public health officials, doctors, and scientists should lead the response to the virus - not politicians.
The federal government must dramatically increase the availability of test kits, intensive care units, and doctors and medical personnel needed to combat the virus, while making sure the frontline workers are protected, he said.
Mr. Sanders said the nation must take stock of the mistakes the government has made responding to the virus and what moves can be made to the federal government to make sure people are better equipped to face future challenges.
Mr. Sanders drove home the point that he expects support for universal health care to increase and lamented how the nation’s trade deals have sent jobs overseas and made the nation reliant on foreign countries such as China for the supplies it needs to combat this sort of crisis.
“People who are sick today, who woke up with symptoms of the coronavirus are saying, ‘You know I feel sick, but I can’t afford to go to a doctor,’ and when somebody is not treated for the virus, somebody who is unable to afford to go to that doctor, that means that the infection can spread to many others, putting us at risk,” Mr. Sanders said. “Now the lack of health insurance for many millions of people threatens other people as well.”