(CN) — When he last ran for president on a platform of health care as a human right, Senator Bernie Sanders espoused what had been a position from the margins — at least in the United States.
On Wednesday, Sanders had at least four of his Democratic opponents co-sponsor his plan for Medicare for All, ushering in what is quickly becoming a party orthodoxy that the United States should join most of the world’s industrialized nations in guaranteeing health care for its citizens.
“Together, from coast to coast, we’re going to roll up our sleeves,” Sanders rallied a crowd assembled in Washington, D.C. “We’re gonna take on the insurance companies. We’re going to take on the drug companies.”
Unlike in 2016, Sanders will not have a lonely fight. He began his remarks standing next to Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, who is also running for the Democratic nomination.
“It is unconscionable that people in America don’t know if they will survive a disease or healthcare illness, something that’s going to affect their lives of their families’ lives, because of the greed and corruption in Washington that decides everything,” Gillibrand thundered.
Just three years ago, Gillibrand enthusiastically endorsed Hillary Clinton, who ridiculed public health care for all as an idea that would “never, ever come to pass.”
Today, Gillibrand counted herself among one of the 14 co-sponsors of Sanders’ bill, among them her fellow rivals: Senators Kamala Harris of California, Cory Booker of New Jersey and Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts.
Connecticut Senator Richard Blumenthal, who also backed Clinton in the previous cycle, took jabs Wednesday at the voices of caution and restraint.
“I have heard it from countless other doctors and insurance companies and pharmaceutical companies: ‘It will never work. It’s impractical. It’s unrealistic. It’s a dream,’” Blumenthal said. “And they’re right: Medicare for All is a dream. It’s called the American Dream.”
With Republicans controlling the Senate, the legislation is unlikely to pass during a Trump administration, but its grassroots and party support has clear momentum on the left.
The event unveiling the legislation took place at Social Security Works, a nonprofit that touted the 100-page bill as the “most visionary, comprehensive universal health care bill ever introduced in the U.S. Senate.”
“This bill would greatly benefit all Americans, especially current Medicare beneficiaries, who would receive better care at a lower cost,” the group’s executive director Alex Lawson said in a statement. “It adds dental, vision, hearing, and long-term care services to the current program while eliminating all premiums, deductibles, and co-pays.”
Deborah Burger, the co-president of National Nurses United, called the bill meaningful to her union’s rank-and-file.
“Nurses see the pain and suffering of our healthcare patients every single day,” Burger said.
With 18 Democratic candidates running, most now advocate the ability for all U.S. citizens to access some form of government-run health care. Others like Senator Amy Klobuchar, a Minnesota Democrat, want to strengthen the provisions of former President Barack Obama’s Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.
Blumenthal, a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, told the crowd that he had just returned from hearings regarding the Department of Justice’s second-in-command, who is working to see that Obamacare is “decimated.”
The Connecticut Democrat saw no contradiction in protecting the gains of the Obama era while pursuing more ambitious legislation.
“This is our future, Medicare for All,” Blumenthal said.