BY FREDA MIKLINGOVERNMENTAL REPORTER
My husband and I were in Des Moines, Iowa for a family occasion on Veteran’s Day, Nov. 11. Sen. Bernie Sanders was holding an event to talk about veterans’ and senior citizens’ issues in a 5,000-square foot event venue near our hotel, so we decided to check it out.
We arrived fifteen minutes before the scheduled time and found easy parking on the street nearby. There were about 100 local people there, sitting in a circle of four rows wrapped around the stool reserved for Sen. Sanders. NBC, ABC, CBS, CNN, and Fox News, along with some local stations, were present with reporters and full-sized TV cameras set up to record the event.
We were escorted to seats in the first row, where we met Dr. Paul Novak, a Des Moines-area emergency department physician at a rural hospital. Dr. Novak was a Sanders’ precinct captain in 2016, but now saw Sen. Cory Booker as the Democrats’ best chance to win back the White House. He said, “Booker is very charismatic and could take on Trump in a debate.”
He felt that Sanders was not a good choice at age 78, having already had a heart attack. He found former Vice-President Joe Biden also too old at 76 and uninspiring when he saw him in person. Novak told us that Sen. Warren “was fabulous but unelectable,” that Sen. Harris was a great speaker, but said she came across like a prosecutor (she was California’s attorney general), and that Sen. Klobuchar was very likeable, but “too nice to be president.” Novak had met both of the Coloradans who started in the race. He liked Sen. Bennett very much after having pizza with him, he said, and found John Hickenlooper, who he met at a local brewery, very enthusiastic.
Novak said he believes that the Iowa caucus is wide open and the leader is likely to change several times before the caucuses are held on Feb. 3, 2020.
Right on time, Sen. Sanders came out to a warm welcome from the crowd. After paying his respects to veterans, Sanders said, “There are Republicans who want to cut Medicare, Social Security, and Medicaid. We have a president who said he wouldn’t cut those, but look at what he’s done. We will never allow that to happen. Instead, we are going to expand Social Security benefits and we’re going to make sure everyone in this country will have health care as a human right. We will cover dental care, hearing aids, eyeglasses, and home health care. Under the Medicare for All plan that I wrote, we won’t allow the pharmaceutical companies to charge exorbitant prices. No one will pay more than $200 per year for all medicines.” He continued, “Last year, health care and insurance companies made over $100 billion in profits. We will eliminate profiteering.”
Sanders continued on that topic with, “The pharmaceutical industry has spent billions on lobbying. They can charge you anything they want. They engage in collusion and price-fixing. In Canada, they regulate drug companies. In this country, drug companies regulate the Congress. It is a dysfunctional and cruel system.”
I asked Sanders how he would pay for Medicare for All. He said, “How are we paying for it right now? If you add up what people pay in premiums, deductibles, and out-of-pocket expenses, it comes to about 20 percent of most families’ income.” He went on, “Health care is not free, but I will take the profit out of it. I would add an additional four percent income tax on all income over $29,000 to pay for it. That is progressive.” Under his plan, he said, “You will be able to go to any doctor or hospital you choose. You won’t have to depend on insurance companies to approve procedures or fill out all the paperwork.”
The presidential candidate also promised his audience he would not allow the Veterans’ Administration to be privatized and reminded them that, “We’re going to make public colleges and universities free and cancel student debt.” He also said that “a woman’s right to control her own body is constitutional,” and that he will “never nominate a supreme court judge who doesn’t support Roe vs. Wade.”
When a high school senior stood up to say he was worried about how his single mother was going to afford their health insurance, Sanders said, “You have to save the planet. That’s what your generation is going to do.” The senator spoke and answered questions for a full 90 minutes before shaking a few hands and moving on to his next event.
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