Bernie Sanders Shifts Course on Union Health Benefits Under Medicare for All

WASHINGTON, DC - APRIL 10: Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) speaks while introducing health care legislation titled the "Medicare for All Act of 2019", during a news conference on Capitol Hill, on April 9, 2019 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
Mark Wilson/Getty Images

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) made a significant shift Wednesday, adjusting the previous position that his Medicare for All agenda would “absolutely” erase union health benefits.

The socialist senator’s campaign updated his website with a significant modification to his current Medicare for All plan. Instead of completely erasing negotiated union benefits, companies with union-negotiated healthcare plans would still maintain a semblance of negotiating powers via the National Labor Relations Board.

According to Sanders’ campaign website:

Bernie will require that resulting healthcare savings from union-negotiated plans result in wage increases and additional benefits for workers during the transition to Medicare for All. When Medicare for All is signed into law, companies with union negotiated health care plans would be required to enter into new contract negotiations overseen by the National Labor Relations Board. Under this plan, all company savings that result from reduced health care contributions from Medicare for All will accrue equitably to workers in the form of increased wages or other benefits.  Furthermore, the plan will ensure that union-sponsored clinics and other providers are integrated within the Medicare for All system, and kept available for members. Unions will still be able to negotiate for and provide wrap-around services and other coverage not duplicative of the benefits established under Medicare for All.

However, a Sanders aide told the Washington Post that the minor addition “does not open a door for private insurance.”

“We are talking to the unions, obviously. You’re looking at perhaps the strongest pro- union member of the United States Congress; we’re going to work with unions on this issue,” Sanders said Wednesday, according to the Washington Post.

“What they will be able to do is take health care off the table, because their members will have comprehensive health care as a human right, as well, every other American and then they can sit down and negotiate for decent wages and decent benefits,” he added.

The shift veers mightily from the remarks the Vermont senator made during a town hall in Davenport, Iowa, Monday.

“Wouldn’t the Medicare plan– wouldn’t that take away our right to bargain for our medical benefits?” a town hall attendee asked Sanders at the event.

“Yeah, absolutely it would!” Sanders said, adding, “It’s not a bad thing”:

As Breitbart News has documented, unions have been growing increasingly skeptical about Sanders’ plan to eliminate their negotiated healthcare contracts.

As Breitbart News reported:

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.

Schaitberger said:

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.

Sanders’ shift follows his public rebuke of Sen. Kamala Harris, who told a group of donors in the East Hampton home of movie executive Jamie Patricof that Sanders’ plan makes her uneasy.

“I support Medicare for All. But as you may have noticed, over the course of the many months, I’ve not been comfortable with Bernie’s plan, the Medicare-for-All plan,” she said.

“I don’t go to the Hamptons to raise money from billionaires,” Sanders shot back on Twitter.

“If I ever visited there, I would tell them the same thing I have said for the last 30 years: We must pass a Medicare for All system to guarantee affordable health care for all, not just for those who can afford it,” he added:

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