Sanders touts affordable health care legislation for all children

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(Host) Every child in the United States would have access to an affordable health care policy if legislation sponsored by Senator Bernie Sanders becomes law.

Sanders says the legislation is modeled after Vermont’s successful Dr. Dynasaur program.

VPR’s Bob Kinzel reports:

(Kinzel) It’s estimated that there are roughly 9 million uninsured children in the United States.

Vermont has a very low percentage of children without coverage because of a program known as Dr. Dynasaur.

Through an expansion of Medicaid, it makes coverage available to all children in households with incomes up to 300% of federal poverty levels or roughly 61 thousand dollars for a family of four.

Senator Sanders wants to use Dr. Dynasaur as a model for a national program:

(Sanders) “I think we as a nation have to be very clear that every kid in this country is entitled to health care. I obviously believe that we’ve got to move toward a national health program, guaranteeing health care to all people. But at the very least as soon as possible every kid in America has got to be covered.”

(Kinzel) It’s estimated that the program will cost $70 billion over a 5-year period. Sanders wants to pay for the program by eliminating tax cuts for wealthy people and cutting funds for the war in Iraq.

(Sanders) “We are the richest country in the history of the world. The problem is we are spending money where we should not be spending money and we are not spending money where we should be spending money.”

(Kinzel) Marion Wright Edelman is the president of the national Children’s Defense Fund. She strongly supports the bill as a way to guarantee uniform health care benefits for children throughout the country.

(Edelman) “Because we do not believe that a child’s chance to survive, thrive and learn should depend on the lottery of geography. You’ve got to be pretty lucky if you live in Vermont. You’re not going to be so lucky if you live in Texas or Mississippi. And so this would correct that and have a national safety net.”

(Kinzel) Edelman argues that the bill is cost-effective because preventative care for children is often much less expensive than emergency room care.

(Edelman) “We are talking about saving taxpayers money. We’re talking about saving taxpayers lives. We’re talking about having parents be able to go to work every day and not having absenteeism. We’re talking about children learning in school. The American people say that this is a smart thing to do because they make the connection.”

(Kinzel) The legislation also provides comprehensive prenatal care to all pregnant women who fall under the income eligibility guidelines of the program.

For VPR News I’m Bob Kinzel in Montpelier.

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