10 things to know about Bernie Sanders' healthcare views

Here are 10 things to know about Sen. Bernie Sanders' views on healthcare issues.

Sen. Sanders (I-Vt.) will run as a Democratic candidate in the 2016 presidential elections. He is currently serving his second term in the U.S. Senate. Previously, he served as Vermont's sole congressman in the House of Representatives. In 1981, he was elected as mayor of Burlington, the most populated city in Vermont.

1. He is a self-proclaimed socialist. In an interview on the Late Night with Seth Meyers, Sen. Sanders defended his socialist affinities and argued his belief that socialist policies could become more widely accepted in the U.S. if Americans become more literate with basic concepts regarding the modern global economy. He told Mr. Meyers he sees his presidential campaign as an "opportunity to describe what democratic socialism means." He added, "You have countries like Denmark, Sweden, Norway, other European countries, which have had social democratic and labor governments." In those countries, Sen. Sanders said, "healthcare is a right for all people. I don't see that as a great problem."

2. Sen. Sanders wants a single-payer health system, also known as a Medicare-for-all healthcare program. The U.S. is "spending almost twice as much per capita on healthcare as do the people of any other country," he said, according to CNN. "We are the only major country on earth that doesn't guarantee healthcare to all people as a right, and yet we end up spending much more than they do. So I do believe that we have to move toward a Medicare-for-all, single-payer system. I think it's not going to happen tomorrow, but that certainly should be the goal," he added.

3. He sponsored the American Health Security Act, S. 1782 in December 2013. The legislation is designed to provide "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 single-payer health program." This program would provide universal healthcare coverage for certain comprehensive services and incorporate Medicare, Medicaid, the Children's Health Insurance Program, the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program and TRICARE, but maintains healthcare programs under the Veterans Affairs Administration. Private health insurance sold by for-profit companies could only exist to provide supplemental coverage. The bill is currently sitting in committee.

4. He offers only mild praise for the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. Following the Supreme Court's decision to uphold subsidies provided to Americans through the federal insurance exchange, the Democratic candidate believes this is not enough to ensure healthcare and insurance is accessible to the millions of Americans still in need. Sen. Sander's belief that the PPACA did not go far enough has expanded the debate farther to the left, according to The Hill.

Following the SCOTUS opinion, Sen. Sanders issued the following statement: "The Supreme Court recognized the common-sense reading of the Affordable Care Act that Congress intended to help all eligible Americans obtain health insurance whether they get it through state or national exchanges. Access to affordable healthcare should not depend on where you live.

At a time when the United States in the only major country on earth that doesn't guarantee healthcare to all Americans — and 35 million of our citizens today still lack insurance — it would have been an outrage to throw 6.4 million more people off health insurance."

5. Sen. Sanders supports Medicaid expansion. According to his official website, "Nationally, more than 4 million people have been left out of the Medicaid expansion for no reason except for the misguided ideological stance of Republican governors and legislatures dominated by right-wing politicians. The failure of states to expand Medicaid through Obamacare is estimated by some experts to contribute to more than 7,000 deaths a year, as people without health insurance delay needed care."

6. Sen. Sanders has pledged support for "family values." According to his official campaign website, "The right has claimed the mantle of 'family values' for far too long. When my Republican colleagues use the term they're usually talking about things like opposition to contraception, denying a woman's right to choose, opposition to gay rights and support for abstinence-only education."

Sen. Sanders' defines family values as every American worker being able to take paid sick leave, as well as maternity leave. He says every worker in America should be guaranteed at least 12 weeks of paid family and medical leave. He is a co-sponsor of the FAMILY Act, introduced by Senator Kristen Gillibrand (D-N.Y.). Under this measure, which would be funded through an insurance program such as Social Security, every employee would receive 12 weeks of paid family and medical leave "[t]o take care of a baby, to help a family member who has been diagnosed with cancer or another serious medical condition or to care for themselves if they become seriously ill."

7. He is pro-choice. Sen. Sanders supports women's reproductive rights. According to Life News, the only time he has ever voted pro-life were times when he supported a ban on human cloning. "The decision about abortion must remain a decision for the woman, her family and physician to make, not the government," said Sen. Sanders, according to Life News. "The right-wing in this country is waging a war against women and, let me be very clear, it is not a war that we are going to allow them to win."

8. He supports vaccinations. "I think obviously vaccinations work. Vaccination has worked for many, many years," Sen. Sanders said, according to The Daily Beast. While he understands some families disagree, Sen. Sanders said it is wrong to endanger children susceptible to illness by exposing them to unvaccinated children who could make them sick and potentially die.

9. Sen. Sanders aims to combat the primary care physician shortage. According to his official website, nearly one in five Americans — approximately 60 million people — reside in areas that lack primary care physicians and other healthcare professionals. "We've got a very serious problem, truly a life-or-death problem for thousands of people," he said. Sen. Sanders, who also serves as chairman of the Senate's Subcommittee on Primary Care and Retirement Security, introduced the Expanding Primary Care Access and Workforce Act April 9, 2014, but the bill was not passed.

10. Sen. Sanders has called on the government to control "staggering increases" in generic drug prices. He and Rep. Elijah E. Cummings (D-Md.) wrote in an October 2014 letter to Sylvia Burwell, the Department of Health and Human Services secretary, that the prices for many generic drugs used to treat common medical conditions as well as life-threatening illnesses have "recently risen at alarming rates."

"The federal government must act immediately and aggressively to address the increasing costs of these drugs," they wrote. These price hikes put strains on the budgets for Medicare, Medicaid, the Department of Defense and the Department of the Veterans Affairs, the letter said.

In November 2014, Sen. Sanders and Rep. Cummings introduced the Medicaid Generic Drug Price Fairness Act to soften the impact on taxpayers when drug makers raise prices at a rate greater than inflation. The non-partisan Congressional Budget Office projected the legislation would save taxpayers $500 million over 10 years.

More articles on presidential candidates' healthcare views:
10 things to know about Bobby Jindal's views on healthcare
10 things to know about Sen. Marco Rubio's healthcare views
10 things to know about Hillary Clinton's views on healthcare 

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