Bernie Sanders on Healthcare

“We say to the private health insurance companies: whether you like it or not, the United States will join every other major country on earth and guarantee healthcare to all people as a right.”  Bernie Sanders, 2019

Bernie believes that healthcare is a human right and should be guaranteed to every American without the added stress of out-of-pocket costs to see the doctors they want when they are sick or injured.  A decade of Obamacare has not brought down the cost of health insurance premiums and health care expenses, even for Americans with health insurance. Health care costs continue to be the top cause of bankruptcy.  Thousands of people are forced to ask for money online to help cover unexpected medical costs.  Many patients with chronic conditions are forced to ration drugs like insulin due to price gouging by pharmaceutical companies. 13.7% of Americans are still uninsured and that number is rising

We continue to pay far more for healthcare, compared to any other developed  country and we get lower quality care.

Obamacare was a small victory for the uninsured, but healthcare and prescription drug costs have continued to soar — along with insurance company and pharmaceutical company profits. 70% of Americans, including a majority of Republicans, now support Medicare For All.

Affordable Care Act (Obamacare): Obamacare was a small victory for the uninsured, but it is time to take the fight against inadequate coverage even further.

Universal Healthcare: Many countries have proven that a single-payer system can work—it’s time for the U.S. to join that list.

Medicare: We must expand Medicare for All by creating a single-payer health-care system for every American.

Medicaid: Until comprehensive universal healthcare is passed, we must expand and improve the Medicaid program.

Community Health Centers: Increasing community health clinics is necessary so lower income people can get the healthcare they need in the communities where they live. 

Mental Health: We must make sure that mental health services are available to all Americans regardless of income.

Prescription Drugs & Drug Manufacturers: We can promote innovation by controlling drug costs and tackling fraud.

Nutrition: In our land of plenty, everyone has the right to access to food and education on nutrition regardless of income or mobility.

Vaccinations: Bernie believes vaccines are an effective deterrent to dangerous diseases.

Affordable Care Act 

Our current system is a combination of employer-based insurance and private insurance. Those who purchase coverage under the Affordable Care Act are covered by private insurance.  Despite the promise that healthcare would become more affordable, that hasn’t really happened. Prices and out-of-pocket costs are far too high, and getting higher. Millions of Americans remain uninsured and underinsured.

Bernie voted for the Affordable Care Act (ACA), but he believes it does not go far enough to provide adequate healthcare for all.  Still, Bernie voted against the 2017 effort to repeal the Affordable Care Act because it would have thrown millions of people off their private insurance plans.

Watch Bernie discuss healthcare and why the current system is flawed:

So, what’s the solution?

Bernie is proposing Medicare for All, his plan to provide universal healthcare to the United States.

Medicare for All 

“The United States must join the rest of the industrialized world and recognize that healthcare is a right of all, and not a privilege. Despite the fact that more than 40 million Americans have no health insurance, we spend almost twice as much per capita on healthcare as any other nation. We need to establish a Medicare-for-all, single-payer system.” – Bernie Sanders

Bernie believes that everyone should have access to the health care they need.  He believes the way to accomplish this is a universal healthcare single-payer system: Medicare for All. 

What is Medicare For All? 

Bernie introduced the Medicare For All Act of 2019, which calls for significant healthcare reform to improve patient care, reduce costs, and provide healthcare to everyone.  Proving that single payer universal healthcare is no longer considered a “radical” idea, his bill has been cosponsored by 14 of his Democratic colleagues in the Senate.  

Medicare For All is a universal healthcare system, where everyone is covered for all necessary health services, with no deductibles or copays.  All healthcare providers and doctors will be in the network. Medicare for All will pay healthcare providers for visits, tests, and procedures according to a set schedule of prices.  We know this system works because that’s how it works with the highly popular Medicare system that we have now. Medicare For All would use the same framework as Medicare, but expand it to cover more people and more health services. Private health insurers can offer coverage for services not covered by Medicare For All, such as elective cosmetic surgeries. Everyone will be covered and can get the care that they need when they need it.

How does Bernie’s Medicare For All plan work?  

Bernie’s plan calls for a phased roll-out over 4 years, to expand and scale up our current Medicare system to be more comprehensive.  The phased timing will enable a smooth transition, until everyone is covered:

  • Increase Access & Choice:  Patients can see the doctors they want, since the “out of network” limitations of a private system will vanish with single payer.  
  • Increase Quality: Covers primary and preventive care, mental health care, reproductive care, vision, hearing and dental care, and prescription drugs, as well as long-term services for the disabled and elderly.  Allows doctors to make decisions in the best interest of patients, rather than based on complex private plans engineered to deliver profits.
  • Reduce Prescription Drug Costs:  Lowers prices dramatically, by empowering the federal government to negotiate with pharmaceutical corporations.  Some brand-name prescription drugs will have a copay.
  • Eliminate Out-Of-Pocket Costs:  No premiums, deductibles or copays for any medical services.  
  • Empower People:  Separates health coverage from employment, so everyone will have more flexibility to change employers, or even consider starting their own business, without the risk and fear of losing their health benefits.

Does Bernie want the government to completely take over the healthcare system?

No. The United Kingdom’s National Health Service is an example of a system where the government owns and operates the public hospitals and employs the staff in those facilities. That is not what Bernie is proposing.

Bernie is proposing a healthcare system like what is found in Canada, Europe, and other developed nations.

In the Medicare For All system, every American would be automatically enrolled into the healthcare plan — Medicare For All. Healthcare providers and facilities would continue to be independent private practitioners. They would be paid by the healthcare plan. This is how Medicare is delivered today for all Americans over age 65, which covers 15% of the U.S. population, around 44 million people. And, this is how Medicaid and SCHIP works for low income people, which covers over 25% of the U.S. population, over 72 million people. This is how all insurance works, it pools resources of a local community, so the power of everyone’s premiums together can afford to pay for the individual members’ care when needed. It’s a simple concept with enormous benefits.

Additionally, insurance would no longer be tied to employment, so if you lose your job, you don’t have to worry about losing your healthcare.  And if you hate your job and want to quit, you can do so without losing your healthcare coverage. 

Wait a minute, this all sounds like magic. How are we going to pay for it?

Bernie’s proposal would amend the tax code to create the American Health Security Trust Fund, which would be financed by various tax revenues, credits, and subsidies. It’s not set in stone, but the tax revenues in the draft include a new healthcare income tax, an employer payroll tax, a surcharge on high-income individuals, and a tax on securities transactions. So, basically, it’s not wishful thinking at all.

But, more importantly, single-payer healthcare controls costs and so would save us money in the long run. One study shows that Medicare For All would save $5.1 trillion over a ten-year period.

How much am I going to have to pay? 

Most people will pay a lot less than they do now. There will be no deductibles or copays. The money and premiums you would have paid to an insurance company will instead be paid into the health security trust fund. This is what we do with Social Security, where all workers pay a portion of their wages and later use that money for retirement. 62 million people collected Social Security benefits in 2018.

This video explains that the government’s job is to provide cost effective health care not to protect the private health insurance industry:

 

Think about all of the costs you pay and add them up — don’t forget the annual premium, deductibles, copays, the out of network charges and the charges your employer pays.  For employer-sponsored insurance, the amount is staggering. in 2018, the average health insurance costs for a family of four was $28,166. That cost increases $100 each month. Insurance costs have gone up a lot since 2010 the ACA was enacted as you can see in the graph below. Employers paid $13,430 and employees paid $6,050 of the premium on average.

Source

This sounds pie in the sky. Where are the details? I want to read the whole bill.

Sure. Take a look.

How does single-payer healthcare control costs?

In single-payer systems (and how Medicare works right now), the government negotiates a fee schedule with healthcare practitioners. This is an essential component to controlling costs. 

See this explanation from healthcare economist Uwe Reinhardt on the benefits of having one price negotiator (the government):

“[P]rices for identical products or services in the U.S. tend to be, on average, twice or more than the prices of the same products and services paid in other countries…. Prices are high here because the payment side of the health system is so fragmented that few payers have sufficient market power to bargain for lower prices.”

In a single-payer system, the government can use its leverage to negotiate more reasonable prices for basic medical services.

It also serves to incentivize doctors that choose to practice in fields where help is needed the most – primary care, family medicine, and pediatrics. An expanded system has the added benefit of giving Medicare for All more negotiating power when purchasing pharmaceuticals and medical devices.

Remarking on similar legislation, economist Gerald Friedman, estimated: “[T]he United States could save an estimated $592 billion annually by slashing the administrative waste associated with the private insurance industry ($476 billion) and reducing pharmaceutical prices to European levels ($116 billion)……Over time, reduced health cost inflation over the next decade would save $1.8 trillion, making comprehensive health benefits sustainable for future generations.”

“Establishing a Medicare for All single-payer program will improve the health of the American people and provide substantial financial savings for middle class families. It is the right thing to do. It is the moral thing to do.” – Bernie

Mercatus, a Koch-funded think-tank, conducted a study and found that Medicare For All would save $2 trillion over a ten-year period. The University of Massachusetts Political Economy Research Institute (PERI) projected that the savings over the same period of time would be approximately $5 trillion.

What other costs are cut with Medicare for all? 

We will no longer be paying for CEO bonuses or stock options, fancy corporate offices, club memberships, corporate jets, annual retreats, board member compensation, commercials or advertising, drug reps, or the vacations and perks they use to bribe doctors and hospital administrators. 

A simple single-payer system would address the huge amount of money wasted on billing and administrative expenses. There would be a set fee schedule, one billing network, and no haggling or pleading to see if a procedure is covered. Plus, debt collection costs would be eliminated. 

Some people would lose their jobs — debt collectors and insurance salespeople for instance. And the health actuaries and medical underwriters getting paid lots of money to figure out how to deny policies and coverage would be sent an official letter ending their contract.

What would be the impact of universal healthcare?

A single-payer system would address the huge amount of money wasted on billing and administration. Creating a simple system with one payer covering all Americans would result in an enormous reduction in administrative expenses. With this system in place, the government will have more money to spend on healthcare and disease prevention, instead of paper pushing and debt collection.

Further, a single-payer system would create jobs and lift a financial weight off of businesses that are increasingly crushed by employee health expenses. Lifting this burden of employee healthcare expenditures will free small business owners to invest in expanding their companies—in turn creating more jobs.

Medicare

Medicare is a national health insurance program administered by the federal government. It provides health insurance for Americans aged 65 and older who have worked and paid into the system. It also provides health insurance to younger people with some disabilities like end-stage renal disease and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis.

How does Medicare work?

In single-payer system like Medicare, the government negotiates a fee schedule with healthcare practitioners. This is an essential component to controlling costs. 

In the Medicare system, every American over 65 is automatically enrolled into the healthcare plan, Medicare. The healthcare providers and facilities are independent private practitioners that accept Medicare coverage. The providers are paid by the Medicare healthcare plan. 

How many people are covered by Medicare?

Medicare successfully delivers healthcare coverage to all Americans over age 65, which covers 15% of the U.S. population, around 44 million people

What has Bernie done to support Medicare?

Prescription drug costs are too high for everyone, including seniors. Bernie introduced the Medicare price negotiation Act of 2019 which would instruct Medicare to negotiate drug prices on behalf of beneficiaries. He cosponsored a similar bill in 2013.

Bernie has a long record of supporting Medicare and defending it against cuts:

  • Voted NO on the Ryan Budget: Medicare choice, tax & spending cuts. (May 2011) 
  • Voted YES on overriding veto on expansion of Medicare. (Jul 2008)
  • Voted NO on means-testing to determine Medicare Part D premium. (Mar 2008)
  • Voted YES on requiring negotiated Rx prices for Medicare part D. (Apr 2007)
  • Voted NO on denying non-emergency treatment for lack of Medicare co-pay. (Feb 2006)
  • Voted NO on limited prescription drug benefit for Medicare recipients. (Nov 2003)
  • Voted YES on allowing reimportation of prescription drugs. (Jul 2003)
  • Voted NO on subsidizing private insurance for Medicare Rx drug coverage. (Jun 2000)
  • MEDS Plan: Cover senior Rx under Medicare. (Jan 2001) 
  • Make health care a right, not a privilege. (Nov 1999) 

Medicaid 

“Medicaid is a vital lifeline for some 72 million Americans. Two-thirds of all Medicaid spending supports senior citizens and persons with disabilities. Cutting Medicaid would jeopardize the quality of healthcare, long-term services, and nursing home care for tens of millions of Americans. There are significant cost issues in America’s healthcare system that must be effectively addressed, but these challenges will not be remedied by benefit cuts to vulnerable Americans.” – Bernie Sanders, 2011

Medicaid is a health insurance program that covers the poorest Americans. It is jointly funded by federal and state governments to cover low-income individuals, families with children, pregnant women, seniors, and people with disabilities. Medicaid, as a public health insurance program, also covers the most impoverished rural communities, such as those in Appalachia, the Black Belt, South Texas, and Indian reservations.

 

Until comprehensive universal healthcare is passed, Bernie supports expanding Medicaid coverage to more Americans. Bernie has consistently supported the expansion of Medicaid coverage and fought efforts to cut Medicaid funding.

He was instrumental in increasing Medicaid coverage through the Affordable Care Act (ACA). 

How many people are covered by Medicaid?

Medicaid covers 1 in 5 low-income Americans. 75 million people had Medicaid health insurance coverage in 2018. As of February 2019, 33 states have adopted Medicaid expansion.

Medicaid covers:

Did the Affordable Care Act expand Medicaid coverage?

Yes, it did. The ACA expanded Medicaid coverage with two changes. The first was raising the amount of money a family can make and still qualify for Medicaid. The ACA raised that cutoff amount to 138 percent of the poverty line, which is $16,000 for an individual and $26,951 for a family of three. Before that, a family of four had to earn less than $15,000 per year to qualify for Medicaid. With a slightly higher income cutoff, more families and individuals are eligible for Medicaid. 

The second change in the ACA was to offer funding to states that make Medicaid coverage available to more people who qualify. The federal government pays 100 percent of the cost for the first three years and 90 percent thereafter, so the cost to the states for increased Medicaid assistance is minimal. Each state can accept or reject this funding. Ultimately, it is up to each state.

33 states and the District of Columbia have adopted the Medicaid expansion. Bernie has repeatedly argued that even more Americans would get access to quality care if governors from the remaining states decided to expand Medicaid.

How much money does this save?

By most estimates, Medicaid is more cost-effective than private insurance. And, in spite of the refusal of some states to expand Medicaid through the ACA, researchers at the Commonwealth Fund reported that expanding coverage to more people under the ACA would cost less than one percent of their state budgets.

Speaking of Bernie, what has he done about it?

In 2007, 2014, and 2015, he introduced the Medicaid Generic Drug Price Fairness Act, a bill designed to hold down spending on generic drugs in Medicaid. Some generic drug prices have increased as much as 100 to 1000 percent in recent years. His bill requires drug manufacturers to rebate Medicaid for increases in generic drug prices that outpace inflation.

In 2008, he cosponsored legislation to preserve funding for Medicaid, known as the Economic Recovery in Health Care Act. In 2015, he voted to prevent more than $1.2 trillion in cuts to Medicaid in states that expanded Medicaid as part of healthcare reform.

More recently, he introduced legislation that would undo previous cuts to Medicaid by rolling back the tax breaks the wealthy received from the Trump Administration.

Community Health Centers

Community health centers (CHCs) and school-based health centers (SBHCs)  provide primary medical, dental, mental health care, substance use disorder treatment, and low-cost prescription drugs to 28 million people in 11,000 communities in every state across the country. They have received additional funding through the Affordable Care Act to support and expand their services.

Medicaid expansion is only effective if clinics, doctors, and hospitals accept it. That’s why Bernie fought hard to include a provision in the ACA to fund new Community Health Centers. It was a deft move that The Intercept described as making an “indelible mark on American healthcare, extending the number of people served by clinics from 18 million before the ACA to an expected 28 million next year.” This move allowed progressive Democrats to vote in approval of the ACA despite the elimination of a public option.

In 2019, Bernie introduced legislation with Rep. James Clyburn to fund and expand Community Health Centers and the National Health Service Corps, which supports healthcare providers who work in underserved communities and provides scholarships and loan-repayment to over 10,000 clinicians each year.

The Sanders and Clyburn’s bill would allow 5.4 million more Americans to receive the primary care they need. 

Here’s a video of the news conference where Bernie introduced the bill.

Mental Health

“We must make sure that mental health services are available to all Americans regardless of income. Today for low- and middle-income people living in rural areas it is especially difficult to find timely, affordable care.” Bernie Sanders, 2019

Bernie believes that everyone has a right to adequate mental healthcare. In fact, one of the ACA provisions he fought for authorized $11 billion over a 5 year period to improve and expand community health centers, which provide affordable primary care and mental health counseling to the underserved. 

Hold on. Tell me more about the scope of the challenge.

In 2008, the Mental Health Parity Act was passed. The law requires insurers to provide equal coverage to both physical and mental health needs. Despite this, individuals and families still face shortages of mental health providers and treatment facilities as well as gaps in insurance coverage.

As of February 2019, 33 states have adopted Medicaid expansion.

Of the states that have adopted the Medicaid expansion, it appears that listing mental health care as an essential insurance benefit has worked and the states are covering mental health needs as are the employer-based plans covered by the ACA.

Mental Health America found that 12.2% of adults with a mental illness remain uninsured. That means over 5.3 million people who are in need of mental-health services lack access to timely, quality mental health services and a consistent source of care. Without Medicaid expansion or a comprehensive universal healthcare plan such as Medicare For All, those people will likely remain uninsured. 

Just how prevalent are mental disorders in this country?

Take a look at these infographics from the National Alliance of Mental Illness.

Mental Health America ranks the access to mental health care that exists in each state. 

Below are some quick facts on the state of mental health in the U.S.:

Source

OK, I’m convinced it’s a problem. What does Bernie say about it?

He believes “we must make sure that mental health services are available to all Americans regardless of income.” And, as a member of the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, he’s particularly concerned about expanding access to mental health services for veterans.

So, what has Bernie done about this?

His provision in the Affordable Care Act dramatically increased support for community health centers, which provide affordable primary care and mental health counseling. The law authorized $11 billion to improve and expand community health centers over a five-year period.

Bernie introduced The American Health Security Act of 2013, which provides every American with affordable and comprehensive healthcare services through the establishment of a national American Health Security Program that requires each participating state to set up and administer a state single-payer health program. It was written to provide inpatient services, long-term care, a broad range of services for mental illness, and care coordination.

And closer to home, he shepherded Vermont’s Mental Health Parity Act, requiring insurers to provide equal benefits for mental and physical illnesses.

Here are 13 more bills Bernie proposed during the 113th Congress alone that would improve mental healthcare for veterans, seniors, and children.

Impressive. But what about making our system even better?

Bernie believes the only long-term solution to America’s healthcare crisis is a single-payer national healthcare program. Bernie’s Medicare For All plan would cover mental health services.

Prescription Drugs & Drug Manufacturers

Bernie’s Medicare for All plan will establish a system to negotiate the costs for prescription drugs in a fair and transparent way.  For now, he has introduced legislation that will lower prescription drug prices so they are more affordable and more in line with what the rest of the world pays. He has also introduced  legislation to address the inflated cost of prescription drugs for Medicare and Medicaid recipients. Currently, the top 100 drug companies spend almost 3 times more on marketing and sales, than they do to research and develop new treatments to improve patient care. Big Pharma has increased their lobbying expenditures, presumably to counter to efforts to lower drug prices. 

Bernie tackles rising drug costs while still promoting innovation in the industry.

Bernie is committed to creating fair drug prices. At the same time, he has a history of supporting innovation in the field of HIV and AIDS medication that would benefit both patients and corporations. In 1999, Bernie was the first politician to take senior citizens north of the border to Canada to buy more affordable prescription drugs. Around that same time, Bernie also took breast cancer sufferers northward, where they could purchase medications in Canada at one-tenth the cost they’re sold for in the United States.

I know drugs are important when you’re sick, but why is this an issue?

Sharp price hikes not only impact consumers, hospitals, and pharmacists, but strain the budgets for Medicaid, Medicare, the Department of Defense, and the Department of Veterans Affairs. With regards to the Generic Drug Price Fairness Act, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimated the policy change would save taxpayers $1 billion over 10 years.

So, how has Bernie framed the challenge?

“Every single year, the major drug companies are ripping off the American people to the tune of billions of dollars a year because of fraudulent practices. Virtually every major pharmaceutical company has either been convicted of fraud (i.e., ripping off the federal government, state government, or individuals) or else has reached a settlement.”

Want to hear more? Watch this video.

What has he done about it in Congress?

Americans pay higher prices for prescription drugs than any nation on earth. The same prescription drugs can cost 10 times more in the U.S. than just across the border in Canada. Bernie has long advocated for the ability of the government and individuals to re-import prescription drugs from Canada and other countries. In 2009, he supported an ACA amendment to allow re-importation. 

 

In 2018, Bernie and Rep. Ro Khanna (D-CA) introduced the Prescription Drug Price Relief Act. The bill, if enacted, will significantly lower prescription drug prices for patients in the U.S. by ensuring the median price is no higher than Canada, the United Kingdom, France, Germany, and Japan. If pharmaceutical manufacturers refuse to lower drug prices, the federal government would be required to approve cheaper generic versions of those drugs, regardless of any patents or market exclusivities that are in place.

Prescription drug costs are too high for everyone, including seniors. Bernie introduced the Medicare price negotiation Act of 2019, which would instruct Medicare to negotiate drug prices on behalf of beneficiaries. He cosponsored a similar bill in 2013.

In 2015, he introduced the Medicaid Generic Drug Price Fairness Act, a bill designed to hold down spending on generic drugs in Medicaid. Some generic drug prices have increased as much as 100 to 1000 percent in recent years. His bill requires drug manufacturers to rebate Medicaid for increases in generic drug prices that outpace inflation. He also introduced the Medical Innovation Prize Fund Act, which creates a medical innovation prize fund that would fundamentally restructure the system of financing research and development of new medicines as well as dramatically reduce their prices.

Medicare for All includes three bills that will help people buy the prescription drugs they need at around half of the current price, which is what the rest of the world pays:

As part of his 2020 platform, Bernie has pledged to cut prescription drug costs in half during his presidency.

Nutrition

While income inequality rises, the increase in food and nutritional funding is essential.

Bernie believes that individuals who truly need assistance should not be denied access to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). In 2012, he voted against limiting eligibility and bonuses for SNAP in the Senate Amendments 2172 and 2165. He has spoken out against the reduction of food stamps: “At a time when the richest people in this country are becoming richer and the middle class is disappearing, it is beyond shameful to cut food programs and nutrition programs.”

Take a step back. How has income inequality changed over the years?

Income inequality is the highest it’s been since the Great Depression.  Currently, 0.3 percent of the wealth is owned by the bottom 40 percent of Americans, while 84 percent of the wealth is in the hands of the top 20 percent. This impact is also felt in the federal minimum wage, which, according to the Pew Research Center, was at its highest in 1968 at $8.54 (in 2014 dollars). With these figures, it’s hard to imagine anyone making minimum wage and working full-time to cover their basic needs—like food. Just take a look at this sample monthly budget McDonald’s suggested to its employees in 2013.

Historical distribution of wealth in the United States.

But should we really be spending money on SNAP programs? I mean, what about fixing the budget and addressing our deficit?

During the 2015 fiscal year, 53.71 percent of discretionary spending went to the military, which amounts to $598.49 billion. Compare that to the $76 billion allocated to SNAP in 2014. Then consider estimates that 25 percent of millionaires pay less taxes than the middle-class. A recent study showed how lowering taxes for the wealthy can affect the economic status of a country.

FY 2015 Discretionary Budget from the National Priorities Project.

So, who receives food stamps?

While there may be some who take advantage of SNAP, about 45 percent of all recipients are children.  The SNAP for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) is an essential program that leads to healthier infants, more nutritious diets, and better healthcare for children. Additionally, disabled individuals make up 19.8 percent, senior citizens count for 8 percent while adults without children who are not disabled make up for 23.6 percent. In other words, these are your neighbors.

But don’t people on food stamps just buy junk food and cigarettes?

SNAP beneficiaries are only allowed to buy household foods and seeds for gardening. Meaning, they cannot buy: alcohol, cigarettes, tobacco, non-food items, supplements, medicines, hot foods, and restaurant or fast-food meals. In many cases, for those who live in a poverty-stricken area, access to fresh produce is limited. Though the trend is changing thanks to some progressive entrepreneurs, it still remains a concerning issue.

What about WIC?  Why do we need that too?

The WIC program is specifically designed for women, infants and children who need nutritional and food aid.  There have been numerous studies suggesting that the health of an individual begins in the fetal and childhood developmental stages. Pregnant women need more vitamins and minerals than the average person. If a mother does not get adequate nutrients in her body, adverse health effects can occur. If there are any deficiencies in a pregnant woman’s diet, her baby will be more susceptible to slow growth, neurological disorders, and even death. On top of infant development, child nutrition is equally important, often influencing a person’s health well into adulthood.

For more on WIC, see here.

But I work hard. Why should I care about SNAP and WIC?

Funding programs like SNAP and WIC is a moral issue. How a nation treats its less fortunate citizens says a lot about a country. Should a great nation like America only worry about the bottom line? Is our nation so consumed with money that we cannot stop to help those in need? The poor should not be neglected or exploited.

Agreed. So, what does Bernie have to say about it?

Addressing relentless attempts to cut back on these nutrition programs, Bernie said, “It is unconscionable that the federal government would cut back on food and nutrition assistance to states as our nation struggles to recover from the worst recession since the Great Depression.”

And in an online interview he addressed the fact that there are “about 46 and a half million people in America living in poverty. Many people have experienced lower wages. People are working 40/50 hours a week. They’re living in poverty,” while, “22 percent of our children are living in poverty.”

So, why Bernie? Couldn’t someone else do a better job?

Bernie has consistently spoken out against the unfair economic climate for those who do not have the means to fully provide food for themselves or their family. He has spoken out against decreasing funding for SNAP while economic disparity rises. On June 2015, Bernie introduced legislation that would, “increase estate tax rates on the top three-tenths of one percent of Americans who inherit more than $3.5 million, while eliminating loopholes that have allowed the wealthiest Americans to avoid billions in taxes.”

For more info on how he is battling economic inequality, click here.

Vaccinations

Both sides of the political spectrum agree that vaccinations are important to public health. Vaccinations are safe and the theory that vaccines cause autism has been debunked.

Although parents have a right to control matters relating to their child’s health, vaccinations are not just a personal or family issue, it is also a public issue. Interactions between unvaccinated children and another child can impact the health of that child and other people in the community. Bernie believes that when parents choices about their own child’s health negatively affect the health of another child, that decision becomes problematic. 

What does Bernie have to say about vaccines?

Bernie believes that vaccinations are safe and effective, and that electing not to vaccinate is dangerous and wrong. In his own words:

“I think obviously vaccinations work. Vaccination has worked for many, many years. I am sensitive to the fact that there are some families who disagree but the difficulty is if I have a kid who is suffering from an illness who is subjected to a kid who walks into a room without vaccines that could kill that child and that’s wrong.”