Health care remains at center stage

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BRATTLEBORO — Health care, the lack of it for many Americans and its climbing costs continues to take center stage for U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders.

More and more Americans now support his "Medicare For All" plan, Sanders told a wildly supportive crowd at the Latchis Theatre Friday afternoon.

The crowd, which gave him several standing ovations, was filled with young voters and those likely already on Medicare.

"Health care is a moral issue," said Sanders, who is running for re-election to his U.S. Senate seat.

Sanders said that when he first introduced his "Medicare For All" legislation three years ago, he only had one senator supporting the plan — himself.

Now, he said, there are 16 fellow U.S. senators who support the plan, and the most recent nationwide survey shows that the plan has the support of 60 percent of voters.

"We are going to succeed," said Sanders, who spoke for just over 20 minutes, and slipped out without meeting with reporters.

"Our job is to stand up and say, 'No more,'" Sanders said. "We are making enormous progress."

According to stories this spring in the Washington Post, a poll earlier this year by the Post and the Kaiser Family Foundation showed that 51 percent of people supported a single-payer health care system, with 43 percent opposed.

The same poll said that 74 percent of Democrats support a single-payer system.

Another Kaiser Family Foundation poll showed 59 percent support for a "Medicare-For-All" plan. National media has tried to question those figures, saying the Medicare title wins favor, but not complete understanding.

Sanders said criticism of a single-payer system focuses on the cost. However, the United States leads industrialized countries, spending $10,348 per person, while Canada spends $4,800, and Britain, slightly less, at $4,200.

'Be A Hero'

Sanders joined another activist, Ady Barkan of the national "Be A Hero" campaign, at the Latchis, and Sanders said that Barkan had stolen much of his political thunder.

"Ady has kind of given my speech," he said.

Barkan, 34, a Yale Law School graduate who works for Center for Popular Democracy, is battling ALS or Lou Gehrig's disease and is wheelchair bound, with a voice that is growing progressively weaker. The "Be A Hero" campaign is working to 'turn the tide' in this year's midterm elections.

"I may be dying," Barkan told the crowd. "But I'm not going quietly."

Rights & Democracy, a Burlington-based grassroots organization, is sponsoring Barkan's tour in Vermont and New Hampshire.

Rights & Democracy member Emilie Kornheiser of Brattleboro, who is running for the Vermont House in a Democratic primary against incumbent Valerie Stuart, was also one of the speakers at the rally.

After the event, downtown Brattleboro was filled with hundreds of people, with dozens carrying red Bernie for U.S. Senate lawn signs.

Cheryl Baxley of Brattleboro brought a friend, Trynity Strickland, 17, of West Brattleboro, and both had one of those lawn signs.

Strickland said it was her first political rally.

"It was really good and inspirational," said the Brattleboro Union High School student. "It opened my eyes to a lot of issues."

Baxley said she had heard Sanders deliver a similar speech before. "But it's still good stuff to hear," she said.

Contact Susan Smallheer at ssmallheer@reformer.com or 802 254-2311, ext. 154.

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