BURLINGTON, Vt. – U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders issued the following statement on Saturday in response to Hillary Clinton’s proposals on health care:
“The goal of health care reform in America should be to do what every other major country on earth does, and that is to guarantee health care for all as a right. The proposal brought forth today by Secretary Clinton, working with our campaign, is an important step forward in expanding health care in America – and expanding health insurance and health care access to tens of millions of Americans.
“I congratulate Secretary Clinton for this extremely important initiative. It will save lives and ease suffering. It will improve health care and cut health care costs. It is a significant step forward as we advance toward the goal of health care for all Americans.
“This proposal, in a very significant way, addresses the crisis we now face in primary health care — the understanding that many millions of Americans today are unable to access a doctor, dental care, mental health counseling or low-cost prescription drugs.
“This is a crisis which results in thousands of Americans dying unnecessarily each year and others becoming much sicker than they should. It also, in an incredibly dysfunctional way, results in billions more being spent on health care than we should be spending. Instead of going to a medical home and a doctor of their own, people all over the country flock to emergency rooms, the most expensive form of primary health care or unnecessarily end up in the hospital.
“Currently, community health centers throughout America provide primary health care to 25 million Americans. In my state of Vermont, almost 25 percent of our people now receive health care through community health centers, the highest percentage in the country.
“The Affordable Care act significantly expanded mandatory funding for Federally Qualified Health Centers. As part of this proposal, Secretary Clinton is committed to doubling the funding for primary care services at community health centers over the next decade. In doing so, we will dramatically expand access to millions more people. This means extending the current mandatory funding under the Affordable Care Act and expanding it by $40 billion over the next 10 years.
“This proposal also includes President Obama’s call for a near tripling of the size of the National Health Service Corps, which will increase funding to $810 million in 2017 and grow over time to $1.3 billion by 2027.
“These are good investments for patients and for taxpayers. Today, community health centers save more than $1,200 per person per year. This is a savings to the overall health care system of $49 billion each year. And by allowing people to access health care when they need it, we will avoid costly illnesses, hospital stays and trips to emergency rooms. A healthier population also means fewer missed days of school and work. In sum, working toward providing universal primary care to all Americans by investing in community health centers will save billions in unnecessary health care spending.
“Further, Secretary Clinton will pursue efforts to give Americans in every state in the country the choice of a public-option insurance plan, and to expand Medicare by allowing people 55 years or older to opt in while protecting the traditional Medicare program.
“Together these steps will get us closer to the day when everyone in America has access to quality, affordable health care.”