Gillibrand Town Hall

U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand answers a question on health care at a town hall meeting Friday, July 14 at Syracuse University. 

Robert Harding, The Citizen

U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand is officially throwing her support behind an effort to reshape the American health care system. 

Gillibrand, D-N.Y., announced Tuesday that she will cosponsor U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders' "Medicare-for-all" bill, which would allow every American to enroll in the single-payer insurance program. 

Medicare is currently available for individuals who are at least 65 years old or those under 65 who receive Social Security disability benefits. 

Sanders, an independent from Vermont who ran for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2016, plans to formally introduce the Medicare for all bill Wednesday. 

Gillibrand will be an original cosponsor of the legislation in the Senate.

Health care has been a major topic at Gillibrand's town hall meetings across New York. She held a forum at Syracuse University in July and mentioned her support for Medicare for all. 

While she has publicly stated her support for single-payer health insurance, cosponsoring Sanders' bill is more of a formal step. 

"As I've been traveling around New York, the number one thing I keep hearing from New Yorkers is that people are very worried that their health care is still too expensive," Gillibrand said Tuesday. "Under the health care system we have now, too many insurance companies continue to value their profits more than they value the people they are supposed to be helping. It's time for something better." 

She added, "So I'll be fighting with Bernie — and I hope with all of you — to pass Medicare-for-all and finally give every American access to affordable, good quality health care." 

Gillibrand has long supported single-payer health insurance. Dating back to 2006 when she first ran for Congress, she endorsed the idea of allowing anyone to buy into Medicare. 

When Democrats were drafting health care legislation in 2009, Gillibrand backed a public option. The final version of the measure, the Affordable Care Act, didn't include a public option when it was signed by President Barack Obama in 2010. 

The Sanders' Medicare-for-all bill will include a provision written by Gillibrand that establishes a not-for-profit public option during the four-year transition period to the single-payer system. 

"This would create an affordable, public health care plan that's available to any American to purchase through the already-existing insurance exchanges," she said. 

The timing of the Medicare-for-all push comes as Republicans in Congress continue to push for the repeal of the Affordable Care Act. Attempts to dismantle portions of the bill have failed, but House and Senate GOP leaders remain committed to eliminating the law known as "Obamacare." 

Sanders' Medicare-for-all bill won't pass in the Senate, which is controlled by Republicans. A similar bill has been introduced in the House and has 117 cosponsors — all Democrats. 

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