September 12, 2017

Udall, Heinrich back the Sanders ‘Medicare for all’ effort

U.S. Sens. Tom Udall (l) and Martin Heinrich (r)

Both of New Mexico’s U.S. senators support the “Medicare for all” legislation proposed by Vermont independent Sen. Bernie Sanders.

Sens. Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich each said Tuesday they would cosponsor the effort.

“I believe that health care is a human right, and that all New Mexicans – and all Americans – should be able to see a doctor when they’re sick,” Udall said. “A hardworking single mother in New Mexico deserves the same quality health care for herself and her family as a multimillionaire CEO. But while we’ve made strong steps in the right direction, our health insurance system is expensive, fragmented and hopelessly complicated for patients and employers alike.”

“America is the wealthiest country on Earth, yet despite our healthcare progress in recent years, we still spend far too much of our GDP on health care and some New Mexicans still find themselves without any coverage at all,” Heinrich said. “It is time to recognize that health care is a human right and I believe that the best way to make that a reality in our nation is to build on what we all know works. Americans across the political spectrum recognize just how well the Medicare program delivers quality health care results at a reasonable cost.”

Expanded health care coverage through efforts such as making Medicare available to all Americans has increasingly become popular among Democrats recently, especially since the 2016 elections.

Just this week, Democratic Senators Cory Booker of New Jersey, Kirsten Gillibrand of New York, Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island and Jeff Merkley of Oregon announced they support the proposal by Sanders.

The bill isn’t likely to pass in the current Congress, as both chambers have Republican majorities. Conservative Democrat Joe Manchin of West Virginia said he was skeptical of such a single-payer plan. Even if it were passed, Republican President Donald Trump would likely veto the bill.

Still, the effort indicates the Democratic party may be moving left on health care.

Sanders is widely expected to seek the Democratic nomination for president in 2020 after losing to Hillary Clinton in the 2016 Democratic primary.

Already, other high profile Democratic senators like Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and Kamala Harris of California signed onto the bill. Some of those cosponsors could be opponents of Sanders in the 2020 Democratic primary.

This isn’t the first time that Udall has supported the concept. While a member of the U.S. House, Udall supported similar proposals by Rep. John Conyers, D-Michigan, in three different years.

Update: Added statement by Martin Heinrich to the story.