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Bernie Sanders on the role of insurance companies under "Medicare for All"

Sanders talks about what his "Medicare for All"
Bernie Sanders talks about what his "Medicare for All" plan will do 20:00

Bernie Sanders is leading the polls in the packed field of 2020 Democratic candidates and while it's more likely to see him out on the campaign trail these days, he's back in the halls of Congress Wednesday to unveil an updated version of one of his signature proposals, "Medicare for All." 

Once dismissed as too radical by many Democrats, it's now central to how the party talks about health care and has become a common refrain of the Democratic presidential campaign. Four of his opponents in the race for president are co-sponsoring his universal health care plan in the Senate. But what is Medicare for All?

"It guarantees, like every other major country on Earth, health care to every man, woman and child in this country," Sanders told CBS News' Ed O'Keefe.

But when asked if his proposal is considered socialism, Sanders, a self-proclaimed Democratic socialist, denied it.

"No. Actually it is not. It's similar to what the Canadians have," he said.

Under the Sanders plan, all Americans would be covered by a government-backed program like Medicare. All necessary health care would be covered -- but at a cost. Some put the price tag at $25 to $32 trillion over the next decade.
"What's expensive and what's unsustainable is the current health care system," Sanders said of the potential cost. "We are spending twice as much per capita as any other nation." 

Sanders said Medicare for All would "get rid of insurance companies and drug companies making billions of dollars in profit every single year." 

"And what if I have a private or employer-based insurance program right now and I like it?" O'Keefe asked.

"Well, you may be one of the millions of people who leaves your job this year, and you're going to leave your private insurance. You may be one of the many millions of people who finds that their employer has gone out and got another insurance company to cover you. You're going to have to change that, but essentially, under Medicare for All, all people will be covered by Medicare," Sanders said.

It's unclear what role insurance companies would play after a Medicare for All plan is implemented but, according to Sanders, their role would be dramatically reduced.

"Under Medicare for All, we cover all basic health care needs, so they're not going to be there to do that. I suppose if you want to make yourself look a bit more beautiful, you want to work on that nose, your ears. They can do that," he said.

"So basically Blue Cross Blue Shield would be reduced to nose jobs?" O'Keefe asked.

"Something like that," Sanders said.

His bold position on the future of the health insurance industry doesn't account for the thousands of jobs that would be lost if companies like Blue Cross Blue Shield are no longer needed.

We reached out to Blue Cross Blue Shield for a response but have not heard back.

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