Demonstrators hold up signs at an education and awareness event on the Affordable Care Act and protest against Tea Party officials they say are threatening an economic shutdown, in Santa Monica, California, October 10, 2013. (Reuters/Lucy Nicholson)
When the fate of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) was in question, independent Senator Bernie Sanders was no easy “yea” vote.
The single-payer, Medicare-for-All type of system that he favored was never on the table, and the final bill didn’t include a public option. He also felt the legislative process had catered too much to the interests of the healthcare industry, which had spent over $1.4 million per day lobbying to get the bill it wanted.
But Sanders knew Democrats desperately needed his vote. He used that leverage in a successful fight to increase funding for community health centers—comprehensive clinics in medically underserved areas that provide doctors, dentists, mental health counselors and prescription drugs on a sliding-scale fee so that nobody is turned away.
In the end, Sanders helped to pass the ACA—legislation that Republicans are now so desperate to repeal that they have shut down the government and put the full faith and credit of the US in jeopardy. Yesterday on Capitol Hill, Sanders held a forum to spell out exactly what the consequences would be if Republicans were to have their way and the ACA were nixed.
He noted that “we are [still] the only country in the industrialized world that doesn’t guarantee healthcare to people as a right.” As a result, there are 48 million Americans without health insurance. Under the ACA, 20 million currently uninsured people will finally receive coverage (more if GOP governors get out of the way) and thousands of lives will be saved every year as these individuals no longer delay or forgo healthcare.
Sanders pointed to a Harvard study that estimates 45,000 people are dying each year from illnesses that arise due to a lack of health insurance.
“Nobody can come up with an exact figure, but it is absolutely indisputable that if we deny the health insurance that 20 million Americans will get under the Affordable Care Act, at the very least thousands and thousands of our fellow Americans will die,” said Sanders. “For all of those folks saying we have to repeal the Affordable Care Act, what they are doing is passing a death sentence on many of our fellow Americans.”