LAS VEGAS (AP) — Bernie Sanders faced some pushback Tuesday from members of Nevada’s powerful Culinary Union who don’t want to give up their existing health insurance under his Medicare for All plan.
Sanders, appearing before about 350 union workers in Las Vegas, explained his plan, which would switch the country to a government-run system and eliminate private health insurance. A small band of union members interrupted several times, chanting “Union health care!”
The scene embodied the friction that the Vermont senator’s plan has caused with some labor groups who otherwise consider Sanders a longtime and steadfast ally is no stranger to joining picket lines. Some unions, including the casino workers' Culinary Union, have said they negotiated hard for their health insurance and don't want to give it up.
The issue has been at the forefront of town halls that the union and its national affiliate Unite Here, have held with candidates. Besides Sanders and Elizabeth Warren. Joe Biden is scheduled to appear before the group on Wednesday.
The 60,000-member union is considered one of the most powerful endorsements in Democratic politics. Its leaders say they don’t know if they’ll endorse in the 2020 presidential primary, but its members have made clear they want to keep their robust health care plans.
Sanders on Tuesday was more direct about the changes coming under his health care plan than Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren on Monday night. Warren, who also supports a Medicare for All plan that eventually switches the country to government-run insurance, breezed over her proposal, avoiding both the details and any pushback from the crowd.
Though Sanders was interrupted several times Tuesday, he seemed unperturbed.
“Because we spend so much for health care, your employer is spending a lot on your health care,” Sanders said. “Under Medicare for All, because we end the profiteering of the insurance companies and the drug companies that made $100 billion last year, because we end the bureaucratic nightmare of thousands of separate health programs that have to be administrated, we save many, many hundreds of billions of dollars.”
Some in the crowd began chanting again.
Sanders said that a corporation spending $15,000 a year on a worker’s health care would only have to pay $3,000 under his plan and “workers get the difference,” in higher benefits and wages.
He received applause, though no cheers like he did making other points about President Donald Trump.
Though Sanders caught some flak for outlining the contours of his plan, he was still warmly greeted Tuesday by chants of “Bernie!” from enthusiastic supporters among the union. Attendees also formed a long line afterward to wait to take photos with the senator.
Sanders toured the union’s training center in North Las Vegas earlier Tuesday and held a small public rally in the afternoon.