October 2, 2019 / 8:23 PM / 19 days ago

Sanders presidential campaign pivots health scare to Medicare for All message

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Bernie Sanders’ 2020 presidential election campaign on Wednesday sought to use news the candidate had a heart procedure to highlight the benefits of his trademark Medicare for All healthcare plan.

FILE PHOTO: Democratic 2020 U.S. presidential candidate and U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders (D-VT) takes the stage at the New Hampshire Democratic Party state convention in Manchester, New Hampshire, U.S. September 7, 2019. REUTERS/Gretchen Ertl/File Photo

Sanders’ campaign canceled campaign events and pulled TV ads after the 78-year-old U.S. senator had two stents inserted into an artery after he experienced discomfort during a campaign visit to Nevada on Tuesday.

The candidate would rest for a few days after the relatively common procedure, his campaign for the November 2020 presidential election said.

Sanders’ speechwriter, David Sirota, said in a daily newsletter that the unexpected medical procedure was “a perfect example of why the United States needs to join the rest of the world and pass Bernie’s Medicare for All legislation.”

Sirota cited a 2018 paper by researchers at the London School of Economics that found cardiac implant devices cost up to six times more in the United States than in some European countries with government-run healthcare systems.

Sanders advocates an approach that would extend the existing Medicare program for Americans aged over 65 to all Americans and largely eliminate the private insurance industry.

Sirota argued the gulf in price was in part due to the U.S. healthcare system’s “complex web of payers - rather than a single-payer Medicare for All system that can negotiate better prices.”

As many as 1 million Americans a year get stents, a procedure that involves inserting a balloon-tipped catheter to open blockage and deploy tiny wire-mesh tubes to prop open the artery.

“I’m feeling good. I’m fortunate to have good health care and great doctors and nurses helping me to recover,” Sanders tweeted on Wednesday afternoon, his first public statement since the procedure.

“None of us know when a medical emergency might affect us. And no one should fear going bankrupt if it occurs. Medicare for All!”

News of Sanders’ health scare sparked mean-spirited jokes pointing out the U.S. senator was treated by the healthcare system he wants to overhaul.

“Any bets on whether he’ll be going to Cuba for their great communist medical care? Get well soon Bern. #SocialismSucks!” tweeted Ben Bergquam, a right-wing California radio host.

Sanders’ supporters also took to social media to post #GetWellBernie messages.

The senator from Vermont’s campaign manager, Faiz Shakir, retweeted one message from a supporter that read, “take my heart bernie!!”

Reporting by Simon Lewis; Editing by Cynthia Osterman

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