INDIANOLA, Iowa — On a college campus on Sunday afternoon, Senator Bernie Sanders wrapped up a long weekend of statewide campaigning with an afternoon town hall before jetting off to Nevada.
The Vermont senator stuck to typical themes of his stump speech: calls for eliminating college tuition, taking action on climate change and of course, “health care as a human right.”
For his town hall at Simpson College, he opened up the floor to the voters. On climate change, he asked what they think part of the problem is. One Democratic voter said, “Fox News.” Another voter said there isn’t a monetary incentive for “greedy politicians” to address climate change. Sanders acknowledged several of their “interesting points,” which sparked what felt like an intimate group discussion in the crowd of 351.
When it came to health care, he asked the audience to share personal stories or thoughts about one of his signature policies, “Medicare for All.”
Sanders joked, “It’s not a radical idea. I didn’t come up with this in the middle of the night. It’s what they do in Canada. It’s what they do all over the world,” which resonated with 71-year-old Martha Viner of Albia.
Viner told Sanders her son has lived in Canada for more than 20 years and doesn’t understand why the United States hasn’t followed suit.
“What a big burden that would be off your shoulders to know if you have some bad luck you’re not going to lose everything,” she said.
Viner said once she and her partner turned 65, they started to fear about surprise diagnoses or accidents that might happen.
“Those things that are out of our control, that we would lose everything we’d worked for our whole lives,” she said.
Sanders played the numbers game with the audience, explaining that the average family in America makes about $60,000 a year and pays $12,000 a year in terms of premiums, copayments, out-of-pocket expenses and prescription drugs.
“All those people say ‘Bernie how are you going to pay for Medicare for All?’ Take a look at what’s going on right now. Take a look at the millions and millions of working class families who are paying 15, 20, 25 percent of their limited incomes for healthcare right now.”
He said his comprehensive plan is much simpler and fairer. Viner agreed.
“One of this biggest problems in the United States today is the health care industry. It definitely needs to work for everyone. We’ve been impoverished by our health care insurance,” she said.
Viner said she caucused for Sanders in 2016, but she is a precinct leader this year, so she doesn’t feel it is “fair” to commit to him for 2020.