After railing at the injustices of U.S. health care for decades, Sen. Bernie Sanders in January became the new chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor & Pensions Committee. The job gives the health care industry’s biggest Washington nemesis an unprecedented opportunity to shape health care reform in Congress. But the sort of radical changes he seeks could prove elusive. Even Sanders concedes there are limits to the powers of his position.
President Joe Biden’s State of the Union address Tuesday night showed how much of Sanders’ platform has moved into the mainstream of the Democratic Party, with Biden at times sounding like his former Democratic primary foe, lashing out at Big Pharma and its “record profits.” Biden bragged about measures taken to lower drug prices and halt surprise bills during his term thus far, and he urged Congress to pass a federal expansion of Medicaid.
Still, the radical changes Sanders seeks could prove elusive. During an interview with KHN at his Senate office recently, the independent from Vermont spoke about the prospects for lowering drug prices, expanding access to primary care, and his ultimate goal of “Medicare for All.”
The interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Q: What do you hope to achieve as chair of the HELP Committee — in terms of legislation, but also messaging and invest …