After Bernie Sanders' 27-point win in Saturday's Nevada caucuses, supporters of one of the Vermont senator's key policies, Medicare-for-all, are hopeful that they can continue to build support for the health insurance overhaul.
On Monday, a coalition of medical and workers groups involved with Medicare for All S.C. gathered at the Medical University of South Carolina to urge voters to learn more about the proposal that would replace private insurance with a government-run system. Supporters of Medicare-for-all say the proposed system would cut costs overall and break the industry of interests that seek profits over patient welfare. Sanders has filed a Medicare-for-all proposal in the U.S. Senate that also has the backing of U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren.
One big question going into the Nevada caucuses was how organized workers would vote after the influential Culinary union declined to endorse amid concerns that universal health care proposals would upend the group's private insurance.
As moderate candidates like former South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg and U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar worked at peeling off support from more liberal opponents who back Medicare-for-all, Sanders sought to allay fears that workers with union plans would lose coverage.
"Let me be clear to my good friends in the culinary workers union," Sanders said in an NBC debate last week in Nevada. "I will never sign a bill that will reduce the health care benefits they have. We will only expand it for them, for every union in America, and for the working class of this country."
On Monday, Charleston organizers signaled solidarity for workers in Nevada.
"What we saw in Nevada is a clear movement of working-class Americans voting for a candidate that supported Medicare for All even though their union bosses decided not to endorse," said Nick Rubin, an organizer for Medicare for All South Carolina. "Because they understood that while they might have really good health care, their family, their neighbors, their community doesn't."
Groups represented at MUSC on Monday included the AFL-CIO, Black Voters Matter, MUSC Students for a National Health Program, Health Care Workers United, Charleston Alliance for Fair Employment (CAFE), and the Charleston Immigrant Coalition, all of whom spoke on the importance of voting for a candidate that supports universal health care.
Under a universal health care system like Medicare-for-all, Americans seeking care would pay no premiums and nothing out of pocket. Several funding mechanisms are proposed, but coverage would likely be bankrolled by higher employer payroll taxes and slight bumps in employee payroll taxes in addition to more-progressive taxation of wealthy Americans overall.
Buttigieg supports a less-dramatic change to a single-payer system his campaign calls "Medicare for All Who Want It," which creates a public option health care plan into which all uninsured people would be enrolled and others would be eligible to join.
"One of the things we ask people is, 'What are you going to do when you're 65?' Everyone says, 'Well, I'm going to go on Medicare.'" said Katherine Isaac, executive director of the Debs-Jones-Douglass Institute, explaining that further cost reductions for patients can be expected if the program is expanded.
Sanders dominated the Nevada caucuses, winning 47 percent of votes cast. Former Vice President Joe Biden (20 percent), Buttigieg (14 percent), U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (10 percent), Tom Steyer (5 percent), and Klobuchar (4 percent) rounded out the field.
Biden leads the field heading into Tuesday's Democratic debate aired live on CBS from the Gaillard Auditorium in Charleston. Sanders trails by a handful of percentage points along with Steyer.
The S.C. Democratic Presidential Primary takes place on Sat. Feb. 29. Polls are open 7 a.m.-7 p.m.