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Franken backs single-payer health care bill

The Minnesota senator is cosponsoring Bernie Sanders' bill.
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Sen. Al Franken threw his weight behind the "Medicare for All" bill on Tuesday, declaring "health care is a right for all Americans – not a privilege."

The bill, proposed by Sen. Bernie Sanders, would see the creation of a national health insurance program funded by the government, providing coverage to all Americans through Medicare.

Universal health care was the cornerstone of Sanders' campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination and is now getting the backing of Minnesota's junior senator, who is one of 15 Democrats publicly supporting the bill.

"Like Paul Wellstone, I've always believed that health care is a right for all Americans — not a privilege — and that every person in our country deserves access to the care they need," Franken wrote on his Facebook page.

"Establishing a single-payer system would be one way to achieve universal coverage, and Senator Sanders’ 'Medicare for All' bill lays down an important marker to help us reach that goal," he added. "This bill is aspirational, and I’m hopeful that it can serve as a starting point for where we need to go as a country."

With the Republicans in control of both houses of Congress the chance of Sanders' bill passing is likely nonexistent, with Franken saying that in the short-term "we must pursue bipartisan policies that improve our current health care system for all Americans."

But even though it won't pass, The Hill notes it's becoming a "litmus test" for top Democrats who are either considering a 2020 presidential run, or face a tough re-election campaign in 2018.

Franken has ruled out running for president in the past – though he wouldn't be the first to change their mind.

How would the 'Medicare for All' bill work?

The bill would upend the health care system, replacing the current private insurer-led system with a public one under Medicare.

It would cover all nonelective treatments, such as emergency surgery, inpatient and outpatient care, prescription drugs, long-term care, mental health and substance abuse services.

The current form of the bill says that patients would not be landed with any treatment bills, though the Medicare for All website concedes that future discussions could lead to a "small co-pay" being added for certain services.

Employer-provided health care would be replaced with employers having to pay higher taxes, but no longer having to cover private insurance for their employees.

It would mainly be funded by existing health budgets as well as a tax hike on the "top 5 percent of earners," the aforementioned tax on employer payrolls and self-employment income, and a small tax on stock and bond transactions.

Medicare would become the country's national health insurer, with doctors and health providers reimbursed by Medicare after registering to provide services.

Private insurers could still operate, but would provide coverage mainly for "elective" procedures such as plastic surgery.

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