PHILADELPHIA—Sen. Bernie Sanders embraced Hillary Clinton's less-than-universal healthcare proposal at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia Monday night. But some of his supporters haven't made that compromise.
In a lengthy speech endorsing the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, the Vermont senator, who came up short in his primary bid, approvingly cited Clinton's and the party's health policy platform commitments. But his statements supporting Clinton drew jeers from many Sanders delegates in the packed Wells Fargo arena, and some waved “Medicare for all” signs.
Sanders' speech followed a tense day in Philadelphia featuring anti-Clinton demonstrations that made access to the downtown convention center and the Wells Fargo arena, where the main event in the evening was held, sometimes difficult. Hot and tired delegates arriving at the arena after subway delays caused by demonstrators were greeted by calls of “No, no, DNC, we won't vote for Hillary.” More such demonstrations were planned for Tuesday.
Monday night, Sanders backed Clinton's and the party platform's calls for “moving toward universal healthcare”; reducing the number of uninsured; establishing a public plan option within the Affordable Care Act exchanges; allowing people 55 and older to voluntarily buy in to Medicare; improving access to primary care, dental care and mental health services; allowing Medicare to negotiate prescription drug prices; and expanding funding for federally qualified community health centers.
“Hillary knows Medicare must negotiate drug prices, and that the drug companies shouldn't be making billions,” he said. In contrast, he said Republican nominee Donald Trump shows “the same old contempt for working families” with his calls to abolish the ACA and cut Medicaid, which he said would cause 20 million Americans to lose coverage.
But Dr. Shimon Waldfogel, a Philadelphia psychiatrist and Sanders supporter who was attending policy-related events during the convention, said he wasn't sure whether he would vote for Clinton or for Green Party candidate Dr. Jill Stein. “It's going to be a tough decision,” he said.
He thinks the Sanders movement needs to continue, to foster local conversations about how best to improve health and healthcare.
Dave Sabados, a Denver political consultant who was at the convention with the Young Democrats of America, plans to support Clinton but has major reservations about the affordability of ACA high-deductible plans. He's working with the campaign in Colorado to pass a ballot initiative to establish a government single-payer health insurance system in his state.
He believes the ACA has brought improvements but it needs to go further, and hopes Coloradans will take advantage of the law's Section 1332 waiver to opt out of the exchange system and create a single-payer model.
Like him, Sanders supporters are impatient with the lack of movement toward full universal coverage and measures to improve affordability. But Topher Spiro, a health policy analyst at the Center for American Progress, which is closely aligned with the Clinton campaign, said it will be difficult for a President Clinton to get anything through Congress if Republicans retain at least partial control.
He said it may be possible for Clinton to work with states where the governor is a Democrat and at least one legislative chamber is controlled by Democrats to establish a public plan within the exchanges.
But the Democratic governor of one such state, Jay Inslee of Washington, expressed caution about pushing the public option. Washington recently had a major insurer, Premera, pull out of the state-run exchange in most of Washington's counties. Inslee said his administration is closely monitoring the financial health of plans on the exchange, and that he would take a look at the public option approach.
He said the first priority, however, is to get Clinton elected president.