Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) admitted during a town hall in Davenport, Iowa, Monday that his Medicare for All plan will “absolutely” erase union health benefits.
“Wouldn’t the Medicare plan– wouldn’t that take away our right to bargain for our medical benefits?” a town hall attendee asked Sanders.
“Yeah absolutely it would!” Sanders emphatically proclaimed, claiming, “It’s not a bad thing.”
While Sanders’ sweeping Medicare for All plan is popular among far-left Democrats, it has sparked a growing concern among labor unions, which fear it could hurt American workers in the long run, particularly by eliminating their negotiated health care contracts.
Harold Schaitberger – president of the International Association of Fire Fighters, the largest labor union opposing Medicare for All – said in a statement that the union doubts Medicare for All’s ability to recognize the “unique circumstances” that their profession requires in terms of tailored health care plans.
We’ve spent a lot of time and effort developing plans that recognize the uniqueness of our members’ profession, the health consequences and exposures related to our work, including behavioral health issues like PTSD, drug addiction and alcohol abuse. We question whether a governmentwide, government-run plan for everyone would ever be able to recognize those unique circumstances.
The American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO) has also remained skeptical.
“While we would like to see universal health care, we want to make sure that there is a role for employer-bargained plans in that plan,” AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka said following the last Democrat debate, wherein Sanders and Warren teamed up and attacked private insurance as it currently exists.
Rep. Tim Ryan (D-OH) forced the issue during the last debate:
This plan that’s being offered by Senator Warren and Senator Sanders will tell those Union members who gave away wages in order to get good healthcare that they’re going to lose their healthcare because Washington’s going to come in and tell them they got a better plan.
Sanders argued that union members will have better health care because Medicare for All is “comprehensive.” However, that promise did not cut it for Ryan, who doubted that the “comprehensive” coverage will be as good as the plans union members fought for.
“But you don’t know that — you don’t know that, Bernie,” Ryan said, prompting Sanders to drop his infamous line, “I wrote the damn bill.”
Nonetheless, unions remain split. While some major union leaders – such as the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) President Randi Weingarten – have endorsed Medicare for All, there is still a sense of hesitancy across the board.