Understanding the Medicare For All Act of 2017


Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) has introduced substantive single-payer legislation in the U.S. Senate. The Medicare For All Act (S.1804), which was filed Sept. 13, 2017, would establish a universal single-payer health program to ensure care for all residents of the United States.

full legislative text:

options for financing single payer:

PNHP press release:


Overview of the bill

Based on our initial analysis, we find the Medicare For All Act of 2017 to be a significant step forward in the fight for single payer. Taken together with the Expanded & Improved Medicare for All Act (H.R. 676), it would transform the U.S. health care system, making health care a human right.

Sanders Bill Basics


Answering member questions about the bill

PNHP national board member Dr. Adam Gaffney hosted a Q&A session on the Medicare For All Act on Sept. 19, 2017. PNHP collected questions from our members in advance and Dr. Gaffney answered as many as possible in the time allotted (see archived video below). If you have additional questions, feel free to contact us at


How can the bill be improved?

Based on decades of careful analysis and research, PNHP recommends several improvements to the Medicare for All Act that would save even more money and improve patient care:

Fully cover all medications, without copayment: Sen. Sanders’ bill requires patient copays on some non-generic prescription drugs. Research shows that copays of any kind discourage patients from seeking needed medical care, increasing sickness and long-term costs. Experience in other nations prove that they are not needed for cost control.

Establish a national long-term care program: In Sen. Sanders’ plan, long-term care would be administered by the states only for low-income individuals, similar to Medicaid today. Long-term care should be provided to all as part of a national health plan. Nearly 10 million Americans need help with the basic tasks of living or help to maintain their independence. More than 80 percent of those who need care live in their communities, not in nursing homes, and nearly 40 percent of them are under age 65.

Fund hospitals through global budgeting: A “global budget” is a lump sum paid to hospitals and similar institutions to cover operating expenses, thereby eliminating wasteful per-patient billing. Global budgets could not be used for expansion or modernization (which would be funded separately through capital allocations), advertising, profit, or bonuses. Global budgeting minimizes hospitals’ incentives to avoid (or seek out) particular patients or services, inflate volumes, or upcode. Without global budgets, the national system has little power to constrain long-term cost growth. 

Ban investor-owned health facilities: For-profit health care facilities and agencies provide lower-quality care at higher costs than non-profits, resulting in both higher mortality rates and greater payments compared to not-for-profit providers.


Building momentum for single payer

See below for a list of current Medicare For All Act co-sponsors, as well as a list of likely and uncommitted senators. It's important to build as much support for single payer as possible, and you can help!

1) If your senators have already co-sponsored the Medicare For All Act, call and email to thank them. Also, ask them to help improve the bill by fully eliminating copayments, covering long-term care, establishing global budgets for hospitals, and banning investor-owned health facilities.

2) If your senators have not cosponsored the Medicare For All Act, call and email to encourage them to co-sponsor. If you believe one or both of your senators may be skeptical, visit to brush up on the conservative case for single payer.

To find your senators by state, click here. If you have trouble locating contact information for your senators, you can always call the U.S. Capitol switchboard at (202) 224-3121.

Likely Democratic Co-sponsors
Dianne Feinstein (CA) - contact info
Chris Murphy (CT) - contact info
Tammy Duckworth (IL) - contact info
Richard Durbin (IL) - contact info
Ben Cardin (MD) - contact info
Chris Van Hollen (MD) - contact info
Gary Peters (MI) - contact info
Debbie Stabenow (MI) - contact info
Amy Klobuchar (MN) - contact info
Sherrod Brown (OH) - contact info
Jack Reed (RI) - contact info
Uncommitted Democratic Targets
Michael Bennet (CO) - contact info
Thomas Carper (DE) - contact info
Christopher Coons (DE) - contact info
Bill Nelson (FL) - contact info
Joe Donnelly (IN) - contact info
Angus King (I-ME) - contact info
Claire McCaskill (MO) - contact info
Jon Tester (MT) - contact info
Heidi Heitkamp (ND) - contact info
Maggie Hassan (NH) - contact info
Robert Menendez (NJ) - contact info
Catherine Cortez Masto (NV) - contact info
Charles Schumer (NY) - contact info
Ron Wyden (OR) - contact info
Robert P. Casey, Jr. (PA) - contact info
Timothy Kaine (VA) - contact info
Mark Warner (VA) - contact info
Maria Cantwell (WA) - contact info
Patty Murray (WA) - contact info
Joe Manchin (WV) - contact info
Current Co-sponsors (as of 9/15/17)
Bernie Sanders (VT), lead sponsor
Kamala D. Harris (CA)
Richard Blumenthal (CT)
Mazie K. Hirono (HI)
Brian Schatz (HI)
Edward J. Markey (MA)
Elizabeth Warren (MA)
Al Franken (MN)
Jeanne Shaheen (NH)
Cory A. Booker (NJ)
Martin Heinrich (NM)
Tom Udall (NM)
Kirsten E. Gillibrand (NY)
Jeff Merkley (OR)
Sheldon Whitehouse (RI)
Patrick J. Leahy (VT)
Tammy Baldwin (WI)



Media Coverage

News Conference on Single-Payer Health Insurance
By Sen. Bernie Sanders
C-SPAN, September 13, 2017
Senator Sanders (I-VT) and other supporters of single-payer health care announced the introduction of the Medicare for All Act of 2017. Senator Sanders said the bill has the backing of 16 senators, several of whom joined him at this event. Also speaking were physicians, a patient, and a CEO who talked about why they believe in a single-payer health care system. View press conference...

Why We Need Medicare for All

By Sen. Bernie Sanders
The New York Times, September 13, 2017
This is a pivotal moment in American history. Do we, as a nation, join the rest of the industrialized world and guarantee comprehensive health care to every person as a human right? Continue reading...

The benefits of Bernie Sanders’ ‘Medicare for All’ plan
By Marcia Angell, M.D.
The Boston Globe, September 21, 2017
Bernie Sanders is right. Given the growing costs and shrinking benefits of Obamacare, and the flame-out of “repeal and replace,” America should transition to Medicare for All. Last week he introduced his Medicare for All Act of 2017, which would do exactly that. Continue reading...

Universal healthcare in the U.S. is possible. We already have proof.
By Farzon A. Nahvi, M.D.
The Guardian, September 15, 2017
As Bernie Sanders, Kamala Harris and 15 other senators release details of their universal healthcare bill – one that guarantees access to healthcare for all Americans while simultaneously creating cost savings – there will be many healthcare conspiracists claiming that such a plan is infeasible. Continue reading...

Single-Payer Gains Support In Congress, And In The Public
By Joshua Johnson
WAMU, 1A, September 14, 2017
Dr. Adam Gaffney (PNHP), Margot Sanger-Katz (New York Times), Bill Scher (POLITICO), and Sen. Tom Udall (D-NM) discuss Sen. Bernie Sanders' new bill to create a “Medicare for all” system in the United States. The bill isn’t the first piece of legislation to propose a single-payer system in the U.S., but it could become the most popular. Listen to panel discussion...

Interview with Dr. Diljeet Singh
By Sam Sacks
The Big Picture, RT America, September 14, 2017
Dr. Singh spoke with guest host Sam Sacks about Sen. Bernie Sanders' Medicare For All Act, how universal coverage has become a mainstream expectation, and how single payer would affect the medical community. View interview...

Canadian doctor to U.S.: Try single-payer health care instead of trashing it
By Danielle Martin, M.D.
USA Today, September 18, 2017
There’s a joke we sometimes tell in Canada: What’s a Canadian? An apologetic American with health care. It’s funny because we half-believe it’s true. The United States and Canada are about as similar as two countries get. But Canada has had a publicly funded, single-payer health care system. Continue reading...

Sanders’ Health Care Bill Is A Huge Win For The Abortion Rights Movement
By Laura Bassett
HuffPost, September 13, 2017
When Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) introduced his single-payer health care bill on Wednesday alongside Democratic Sens. Elizabeth Warren (Mass.), Kamala Harris (Calif.), Kirsten Gillibrand (N.Y.) and Cory Booker (N.J.), it marked a big step forward for the reproductive rights movement. Continue reading...

Bernie Sanders is right - why not Medicare for all?
By James E. Dalen, M.D., M.P.H.
Arizona Republic, September 26, 2017
Bernie Sanders is introducing a bill that would ensure that all Americans have access to health care. It is called “Medicare for all.” Is this a wild socialist scheme? Continue reading...

Sanders and the new crusade for national health insurance
By Phil Kadner
Chicago Sun-Times, September 17, 2017
As Bernie Sanders revealed his latest plan for single-payer national health insurance on Wednesday, he was joined by Sen. Elizabeth Warren and just about every other Senate colleague mentioned as a potential Democratic presidential candidate in 2020. Continue reading...