Health Julia Conley Pandemic Politics

As Covid Deaths Hit 800k, Sanders Says Medicare for All Needed to End ‘Vulgarity’ of US Health System

After nearly two years of the coronavirus pandemic and 800,000 deaths caused by the virus, Bernie Sanders says it is time to enact Medicare for All.
A long Covid-19 testing line at Rivergreen Park in Everett, Massachusetts on December 28, 2021. (Photo: David L. Ryan/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)

By Julia Conley / Common Dreams

Sen. Bernie Sanders on Wednesday said that nearly two years after the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, the public health crisis that shows no sign of coming to a swift end has brought into stark relief “the vulgarity” of the U.S.  healthcare system, suggesting the political establishment must end its defense of the for-profit healthcare industry as he re-upped his call for Medicare for All.

The Vermont independent senator, whose decades-long push for single-payer healthcare was dismissed by President Joe Biden as not “realistic” weeks before Covid-19 was first detected in the U.S. in January 2020, wrote about the issue on social media shortly after the country recorded 800,000 known deaths from the disease.

With one in three of those deaths linked to gaps in health coverage, according to a study earlier this year by Families USA, and insurance giants’ profits skyrocketing, the pandemic has demonstrated “how dysfunctional our healthcare system is,” Sanders said in a tweet.

Progressives argued soon after the pandemic began that the case for Medicare for All was strengthened by the crisis, as more than 16 million Americans were estimated to have lost their employer-sponsored health insurance plans in the first two months of the pandemic due to layoffs and furloughs.

Now that the unemployment rate has dropped considerably and Americans are being encouraged to return to their normal routines as much as possible in the interest of keeping the economy afloat, the lack of a universal healthcare program is still affecting “everything from vaccine hesitancy to the ability to get a test to how we manage the virus going forward,” wrote Abdullah Shihipar, a researcher at Brown University’s People, Place, and Health Collective, at The Nation last week.

Although Covid-19 vaccines have been offered to the public free of charge, Shihipar noted, the notion of healthcare that is free at the point of service is so foreign to many Americans that fear of being hit with an unaffordable medical bill has driven some vaccine hesitancy.

Fear of costs “could be one of the reasons uninsured people are among those with the lowest rates of vaccination, with 56% reporting having received one dose in the latest survey conducted by Kaiser Health News, a lower percentage than Republicans and white evangelicals,” wrote Shihipar.

Such fears have been confirmed over recent months as reports have cropped up about surprise bills for Covid-19 health services, despite the federal government’s promises that patients will not be charged for vaccines or testing.

Insurers may charge co-pays for vaccines as well as visit and “vaccine administration” fees, the New York Times reported in October.

One man in Dallas reported receiving a PCR and rapid antigen tests at a free-standing emergency room and being billed more than $54,000, just $16,000 of which his health insurer covered.

The charges are “perfectly legal,” NPR reported. “For coronavirus tests—like much else in American health care—there is no cap to what providers can charge.”

High costs and a lack of transparency regarding the price of medical care “erode trust,” wrote Shihipar, noting that immediately before the coronavirus crisis was declared a national emergency in the U.S., a survey by Bankrate found that nearly one in four Americans avoided getting medical attention due to costs.

“They might avoid testing and vaccines for the same reason,” wrote Shihipar.

Beyond contributing to pockets of unvaccinated populations, the for-profit healthcare industry and its associated costs for patients has cut down on the number of Americans who regularly get preventative care from a primary care doctor, making it less likely that many will be able to benefit from antiviral drugs if they do contract Covid-19, like the one recently developed by Pfizer.

“For these drugs to be effective, treatment must begin soon after a person is infected, which means patients need early access to testing and a doctor who can prescribe them,” wrote Shihipar.

Instead of seeing a physician regularly, a growing number of Americans seek medical care only after their health has taken a turn for the worse; according to a 2017 study by the University of Maryland School of Medicine, “nearly 50% of medical care sought at hospitals was emergency-room care.”

Cost also continues to create barriers for people seeking antiviral treatments, Shihipar wrote, meaning “that even after Covid has become endemic, we will likely continue to see disparities in disease and death along racial and socioeconomic lines.”

Sanders’ tweet and Shihipar’s article followed an uproar earlier this month over White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki’s mocking of a reporter’s suggestion that the U.S. government should purchase at-home Covid-19 tests on behalf of all Americans and distribute them to mitigate the spread of the disease.

As Common Dreams reported, Psaki’s response was widely condemned and the public pressure helped push the White House to announce a far more ambitious testing strategy than it originally planned, including the distribution of 500 million at-home tests.

“This measure and the recent call to distribute free masks in addition to vaccines would be a good start, but free health care cannot be a temporary measure,” wrote Shihipar. “The pandemic has demonstrated that a privatized healthcare system cannot ensure the health of the population.”

Warren Gunnels, longtime policy advisor to Sanders, said Tuesday that the realities of the pandemic have only made it more clear that the for-profit motive in the system is indefensible.

“We can’t enact Medicare for All […] in America,” said Gunnels sarcastically, “because the shock of outrageously high hospital bills may encourage a few people to get a free Covid-19 vaccine shot is just another example of how totally insane and dysfunctional our healthcare system has become.”

Julia Conley

Julia Conley is a staff writer for Common Dreams.


  1. “The war is not meant to be won, it is meant to be continuous. In the long run, hierarchical society was only possible on the basis of poverty and ignorance”. Orwell, ‘1984’.

    ‘It’s a top-down corporate-political propaganda construct designed to siphon-off the wealth created by the working masses throughout the UK (& US), in order the elite can engineer deprivation and funnel the fruits of our labour and industry to themselves with our patriotic poverty ‘permission‘. And of course, for us to cyclically hand-over to the elites our most precious of resources; our children, especially our sons sent to perpetual war.’

    ‘Patriotic Poverty MBE: A Volksgemeinschaft ‘State’ (2020)

    Feedback and questions welcome.

    Kind regards,

    Johnny McNeill
    #GaslightingGilligan (© 2017) 
    Twitter: @GasGilligan (free download)

    1. —> It’s a top-down corporate-political propaganda construct

      And essentially unavoidable on the back of a hierarchical debt based monetary model.
      We will always have a supply driven economy as long as we have a supply driven monetary model.
      It’s like a “Yin” that has no “Yang”, doomed to fail with no sense of balance or symbiosis.

      It’s incumbent on the free market to add debt-free assets into circulation to create a “rounder world”.
      ………. and then there will be light !

  2. Medicare for all will first require the market participants to migrate toward debt-free transactions in support of real economic growth and massive revenue increases to government on the back of much welcomes real economic growth.

    Sanders has no friggin clue as to how to get there. There free market does, however and has already started the process.

  3. Sen. Sanders has been around for years, so we know he “stands” for whatever middle classers say they want (“so send your urgent donation”). This has proved quite meaningless, beyond emphasizing the deep split among the former base. As always, Congress knows universal health care makes no sense in a country that denies human rights (UN’s UDHR) to food and shelter to those left jobless. It’s not going to happen.

  4. The U.S. doesn’t need to heal. The U.S. needs socialism. And not Bernie Sanders-style “socialism” but the real thing. A social democratic movement may be necessary to get there, but it certainly won’t be led by the likes of Bernie Sanders or “the Squad.” These forces have demonstrated an inability to stand up to the likes of Joe Biden and Nancy Pelosi during one of the most crisis-ridden periods in U.S. history. The Democratic Party is a fully-owned political subsidiary of the ruling class, and only socialism can address the crises facing the majority of people.

    Socialism and American exceptionalism do not mix. Reverting back to a “color-blind” liberal attitude toward racial cleavages only distorts the true impact of the so-called “color-line,’ better termed as white supremacy. Inclusion is not liberation. Neither the presence of “the Squad” nor the Black misleadership class alters the fundamental power relations of the U.S. empire. Socialism is about turning the power relationships inherent to imperialism on their head, and thus far the project to institute a 21st century New Deal by seeking political seats in Washington has been an abject failure.

    “The Democratic Party is a fully-owned political subsidiary of the ruling class.”

    Biden is fundamentally opposed to socialist-lite policies such as Medicare for All, which means his administration will do everything it can to suppress socialist politics from emerging under his rule. Russiagate has already strengthened the repressive apparatus of the state to censor left journalism and political activity within online forums . It should not be forgotten that Barack Obama laid the basis for Trump’s so-called attacks on the corporate media by waging an unprecedented war on whistleblowers. Joe Biden has already nominated Richard Stengel, former Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy during Obama’s reign and self-proclaimed “chief propagandist” of the U.S. government, to head his transition team for the U.S. Agency for Global Media. U.S. imperialism is in a state of crisis, and the Biden administration is ready to deflect blame onto the left for whatever failures and blunders that will inevitably emerge under its neoconservative leadership.

    Joe Biden’s principle role is to heal the ailments of the ruling system at the expense of the poor and the oppressed. American exceptionalism is the ideological antidote that the elite has prescribed for the masses. The intended side effect is the normalization of endless war, corporate theft, and institutional white supremacy. Socialism, on the other hand, is a movement-driven system organized around an ideology that opposes war, extends a hand of friendship to oppressed nations abroad, and approaches white supremacy as a struggle for power rather than merely a hateful ideology. Socialism raises the demand to free political prisoners such as Julian Assange and Russell Maroon Shoatz alongside Medicare for All and other “bread and butter” issues. Not a day needs to pass under a Biden administration to demonstrate further that the Democratic Party plantation is not in the business of meeting the needs of the people. The question is not whether Biden can “heal America,” but how hard we can move the masses in the direction of a revolutionary socialist future.

    Danny Haiphong is co-coordinator of the Black Alliance for Peace Supporter Network and organizer with No Cold War.

  5. “making it less likely that many will be able to benefit from antiviral drugs if they do contract Covid-19, like the one recently developed by Pfizer.” Screw Pfizer. Even a basically oppositional post to the current system can’t help but be subsumed into the Big Pharma propaganda matrix.

    My report/ retort is this: the pharmacological mechanism of action of drugs like hydroxychloroquine strongly suggested potential effectiveness vs. COVID, but the drugs never got realistic clinical trials. Why? Because the US Govt. paid Pfizer billions for a mediocre vaccine (won’t bore you with the immunological basis for that assessment, but I have the creds to justify that assessment). Hence it had to push the vaccines as having emergency approval status by denying the efficacy of other therapies. The money trail — and the personnel trail — between pharma and the FDA screams “corruption” in the context of the of the drug therapy approval process. Looking for a conspiracy? It’s right here, impelled by the normal driver in a for-profit healthcare system — GREED.

  6. And . . . . Bernie Sanders’ “democratic” socialism is American Exceptionalism for a woke faux Left. It is a smokescreen. His demise and genuflection to the ruling class was not somehow a result of his nice-guy personality or the missteps of his campaign— we should not be surprised to see the same capitulations in persons other than Sanders, namely AOC and other “democratic” socialists and fake progressives. This is already taking place in real time as we’ve seen with the failure of “progressives” to come together and thwart the trillion-dollar 2020 corporate bailout and its subsequent iterations.

    Let’s put this another way. Bernie is just one sheepdog, and an aging sheepdog at that. He has served the Democratic Party well (especially while claiming to be an independent), but times are changing fast and dangerously. So to meet the challenge, we are witnessing the formation of a de facto new caucus— the Sheepdog Caucus. What’s better than a single sheepdog? A kennel of sheepdogs. A single sheepdog can only herd so many sheep, but a pack of sheepdogs is the way of the future. Bernie, AOC, and friends have already proven their fealty to capital, dutifully falling in line and endorsing Biden while enabling the transfer of trillions to an already bloated ruling class. The Sheepdog Caucus can do the treacherous work that is even beyond the ability of the pathetic Progressive Caucus or its hapless cousin, the Black (Misleadership) Caucus. As working-class people become more conscious of their natural inclination to socialism— to their own class interests— the Sheepdog Caucus will be crucial to the survival of the Democratic Party.

    “What’s better than a single sheepdog? A kennel of sheepdogs.”

    Just as the Republican and the Democratic parties need one another as a foil to keep the masquerade of the corporate duopoly going, so the Democratic Party benefits from squad-like faux leftists perpetuating the illusion that fundamental reform of the Democratic Party is possible. To the degree that the Republican Party may eventually lose relevancy in certain electoral arenas, the Sheepdog Caucus will be well situated to play the role of the “old Democratic Party” (or the new “New Deal Democratic Party”) to the real power in the “corporate” Democratic Party (with its intransigent commitment to austerity and war). In fact, the sheepdogs themselves keep telling us they want to return to the Democratic Party of old— which even in its best days was a racist, war-mongering representative of the ruling class.

    Here’s the bottom line: These sheepdogs are neutered. They pose no threat to the ruling class. Their combined social media platforms and considerable support base would have allowed them to mount a credible threat in the last two months— if it was in their hearts to do so. They could have coordinated their efforts and demanded Medicare for All, cancellation of working-peoples’ debt, a basic monthly income, and a moratorium on rent and mortgage payments, at least until the end of the pandemic. They could have helped coordinate strikes to back up these demands.

    The crisis of capitalism will continue to accelerate and intensify. Whether or not we are in a given election cycle, people will be looking for alternatives to “corporate” Democrats. But the Democratic Party is the master of this game; it will keep things “in-house.” The “corporate” Democrats, like “mama bear” Pelosi (as AOC endearingly referred to her) will make certain that folks seeking change look no further than its faux Left wing— the Sheepdog Caucus. It only gets worse from here. If you haven’t already exited the Democratic Party, now’s the time.

    by Quetzal Cáceres is a Xicanx educator and socialist living in Yanga (Los Angeles), land of the indigenous Tongva people.

  7. Damn healthcare! We need to spend more on the military$768 billion is a pittance! To quote the late great President of Pakistan Zia-ul-Haq, “Pakistan will have nuclear weapons, even if my people have to eat grass!” The only difference with Biden is for appearances he will never say anything so crass, but his actions differ little from Zia! This is the mediocrity that leads America down the garden path of its own destruction!

  8. What a wanker. And a tool. Now that he’s done with his second starring role as sheepdog for ‘the people’s party,’ Sanders is back to his lapdog routine along with other corporate critters of Congress. Of course, Common Dreams deserves some recognition here in its usual vulgar display of promoting common delusions.

    This is pure propaganda for the plandemic, controlled criticism prescribed by and for lame liberals and leftists toeing boilerplate storylines like how ‘the people’ need more of the ‘health care’ now coming at us with genocidal lockdowns, medical tyranny, and kill shots.

    But hey, it’s free! Except for how funding for this fraud draws upon Medicare (and Medicaid), increasing its costs, not to mention how taxpayers present and future will be burdened and bound by yet more public debt. Once again, our masters have us paying for our own oppression and demise.

    Besides typically insidious sleight of hand transferring wealth to predators upon ‘the people’ with the covid coup (the ones really getting the free ride – to riches), there’s also the old caveat about being careful what you wish for. Industrial monopolization of modern medicine, largely the product of Rockefeller Big Oil and the Pharmafia, is, as Ivan Illich observed, our nemesis. Its rationalized methods of madness alone in pushing poisons upon human lab rats, contributing to ‘health care’ arguably being the leading cause of mortality (when data is not ‘doctored’), have long prepared its true believers for the death march now underway. Perhaps reluctance of people to seek ‘care’ at this time if not before is also because the cost could be your life.

    Won’t elimination of the profit motive when the promise of Medicare for All is achieved eliminate such carnage of the medical meat market? Perhaps the words of Red Cloud are worth recalling here: “They made us many promises, more than I can remember, but they never kept but one; they promised to take our land, and they took it.” If you believe ‘our representatives’ in the nation’s cesspool of corporate crime and corruption wheeling and dealing in bait-and-switch legislation and fine-print social contracts are good for their word, then somewhere there’s a bridge for you to buy.

    But if you want genuine health care, then consider how the body politic needs the healing power of revolution, and real liberty and justice for all. Because anything short of that now with the medicine our masters want to give us means the death of us all.

  9. Testing???? We know omicron spreads very fast. It cannot be stopped but if you are vaccinated you are unlikely to get very sick and many people can easily recover at home. DON’T breathe on others!!!! Unless you are very fat (!) and/or asthmatic etc you will survive stronger from the infection!!! No need for tests unless they are required for travel or work, and the isolation period is only 5 days. Stop the panic and lies of the “authorities”.

    1. Unless you are “fat” and “asthmatic.” Thanks for the science. Absurdity. Chronic illness in USA is, oh, one out of two maybe. Fatty liver disease? Oh, that one. Diabetes? Oh, the vaccine injured, and the injured from chemicals, poisons, persticides? Oh. Well, go home with no toolkit? Oh. The Omnicron? Or Omegacron? Funny stuff, really, you take on things.

      Tests for travel? I think it is a vaccine mandate, a passport, electronic, in the works. What will gone wrong with that?

      Hmm, gain of function, bioweapon tested, SARS-CoV2. Oh, what could go wrong with that? And mRNA vaccines, what could go wrong with those, with booster and booster and universal multiple vax yearly?

      Clinics in every neighborhood. Dental needs met. Oh, socialized medicine, and make that TCM, and naturopathy, too. Western medicine is broken, but still, people need broken bones fixed, teeth extracted and tumors deal with. But not through this parasetic for-profit disease called USA Medicine and Medical Insurance.

      Lots of socialism needed on every level of this broke-back, no country for old men/women society!

  10. Just for kicks folks.

    If all goes well with the James Webb space telescope, the universe will have an opportunity to observe its birth and mankind will have served its purpose.

    Mankind is the universe contemplating itself.

  11. dr robert Malone claims that as many as 500,000 deaths would have been avoided had cheap available treatments been permitted. the physician mafia rejected ivermectin, etc…pharma cannot profit from them yet they are used in many other nations successfully….naturally Malone is banned from facebook, etc

  12. I find it amazing that nobody seems to realize that Biden m who appointed Liz Fowler to head the Medicare and Medicaid innovation center, is presiding over the privatization of traditional Medicare. This will be done through Direct Contacting Entities owned by hedge funds and Wall Street investors, While Medicare’s overhead is 2% the overhead with DCE’s will be at a minimum 40%. So instead of expanding Medicare for All which Biden opposes, all people enrolled in traditional Medicare will be transferred to a system which is run by the DCE’s without their knowledge and the changes will be enacted without the approval of congress. The door was open by the creation of the Innovation Center as part of Obama’s ACA which was largely written by Liz Fowler and now Biden has appointed here to close the deal. Going to the CMM’s website reveals that there are thousands of trials being run all over the US. Katy Porter, Rashida Talib and and PNHP are on top of this issue, why isn’t Scheer Report? It is such a fundamental change with disasterous consequences.

  13. As someone who was duped into donating $250 to Bernie’s campaign, I am disgusted by and don’t give a damn about his useless tweets. They are political theatrics.

    He didn’t fight in the debates against his good friend, Joe Biden.

    He suspended his presidential campaign right after there was news of coronavirus and right before it became a major healthcare issue he could have won on.

    He didn’t support Force The Vote last January.

    He voted for the CARES Act.

    He didn’t appear at a single Medicare For All March last July. Nor deed he speak about them.

    Jimmy Dore calls him “a sheepdog for the Democratic Party.” That has proven accurate. He has betrayed his own supporters over and over. He suckers people into thinking he is actually trying to do something when he isn’t, including the author of this article. I now detest him more than Biden and Trump. At least I wasn’t fooled by those two.

    1. Oh. Jimmy is okay for a comic, but he gets his info from better minds, for sure: ALmost 7 years ago, his first big sheepdog show,

      Presidential Candidate Bernie Sanders: Sheepdogging for Hillary and the Democrats in 2016

      Vermont senator and ostensible socialist Bernie Sanders is playing the sheepdog candidate for Hillary Clinton this year. Bernie’s job is to warm up the crowd for Hillary, herding activist energies and the disaffected left back into the Democratic fold one more time. Bernie aims to tie up activist energies and resources till the summer of 2016 when the only remaining choice will be the usual lesser of two evils.

      “The sheepdog is a card the Democratic party plays every presidential primary season when there’s no White House Democrat running for re-election.”

      Spoiler alert: we have seen the Bernie Sanders show before, and we know exactly how it ends. Bernie has zero likelihood of winning the Democratic nomination for president over Hillary Clinton. Bernie will lose, Hillary will win. When Bernie folds his tent in the summer of 2016, the money, the hopes and prayers, the year of activist zeal that folks put behind Bernie Sanders’ either vanishes into thin air, or directly benefits the Hillary Clinton campaign.

      Don’t believe us? Then believe Bernie himself interviewed by George Stephanopoulos on ABC News “This Week” May 3.

      1. I did not have internet until December 2018. I did not learn of all this until mid 2020. I wish I had known sooner, but the mainstream media sure wasn’t going to tell me.

        When I joined YouTube in early 2019, the algorithm suggested all kinds of so called “lefty” channels: Democracy Now, Thom Hartmann, Kyle Kulinski, David Pakman, Kim Iverson, Rational National, TYT, Human Report, Jimmy Dore, etc. It took a lot of listening to sort out who was genuine and who wasn’t. I didn’t start listening to Jimmy regularly until he kept having on Dylan Ratigan at the start of the pandemic. Jimmy has been right and exposed so much over and over. He is the most trustworthy to me now.

        If I were new to YouTube today, I would never find him, Chris Hedges, or most of the others. The algorithm never suggests lefty content anymore. Even by subscribing to RT, I am never sent Hedges videos. I only see them because of the links here at Sheerpost. There is definitely censorship going on at YouTube.

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