Vermont U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders was in Franklin County Monday. His stops included the Franklin County Senior Center, where health care and Social Security dominated the discussion.
Franklin County, Vermont’s northwestern-most county, borders Canada and the state’s most populated area – Chittenden County. The U.S. Census Bureau estimates its July 2016 population at 48,915 with 14.7 percent 65 or older.
During his tour of the county Monday, Independent U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders visited a federally qualified health center in Richford and then held a town meeting with seniors in St. Albans.
Sanders stood up with his microphone to rail against the GOP actions on health care and update the crowd on his pending proposals. “We have legislation that I hope to get a vote on soon which will allow individuals, pharmacists and distributors to be able to buy low cost prescription drugs abroad and sell that product here in the United States, same exact medicine as being sold here, for a fraction of the price.”
The ranking member on the Subcommittee on Aging asked the crowd if the U.S. should follow other countries’ model for health care. It led to an interchange with Linda Davignon, who came from Canada to meet Sanders.
Sanders: “What do the Canadians do? Alright you’re a Canadian and you’re still alive!”
Sanders: “I cannot believe that ‘cause all I heard about the Canadian plan nobody lives. How much do you pay when you go to the doctors?”
Sanders: “Nothing, I must have misunderstood her! I thought she said nothing. Correct me!”
Sanders: “Nothing, okay. What about the cost of prescription drugs?”
Davignon: “Fifty percent less than what you people pay.”
Sanders: “Fifty percent less. What happens when somebody ends up in the hospital how much does that cost you?”
Sanders: “That’s the terrible Canadian health care plan. Okay woman right down there.”
Early: “Bernadette Early. I personally have experienced and my friends all over New England and other states experienced this that doctors no longer will take patients if they’re using their Medicare or Medicaid.”
Sanders: “That’s outrageous. I know that that is a problem, more for Medicaid I think than for Medicare. The first answer is to increase Medicaid reimbursement fees. But second of all I mean this gets back to the broader issue does it matter what kind of insurance you have? Should you be able to get the health care that you need and the answer is obviously yes”
While most of the conversation centered on health care issues, Republican Tom Tramper of Fairfax brought up jobs. “38-percent of today’s jobs will be lost to automation and artificial intelligence within 15 years.”
Sanders: “You raise a very serious issue. All over if you go to a factory in America today robotics is now playing a very very significant role in manufacturing. The jobs that are existing right now are often not the same kinds of jobs that existed 50 years ago. Robotics is not a bad thing. But workers should not be the people who suffer.”
Sanders told the seniors he plans to introduce legislation that will solve the health care crisis. “The long term solution to the health care crisis in America is to make Medicare available to everybody – Medicare for All – not just people 65 years of age or over.”
When challenged that such a plan would increase taxes, Sanders countered that overall people would save money. “Will taxes go up? Yes. Will the middle class family save money? Yes that family will because they’re not going to be having to pay 10- 15- 20-thousand dollars a year in private insurance. I think most people would think it was a good deal.”
Sanders also visited a diary farm in East Fairfield to discuss agriculture issues.