Sanders said it was still possible for single-payer to come to the U.S. eventually -- but he said the road will not begin in Washington. If a state like California or Vermont ever instituted a single-payer system on its own, Sanders said, it would eventually lead to national adoption of universal coverage.
Sanders has put forward an amendment to the current health care bill in the Senate that would allow states to use federal funds to create their own single-payer plans, he said.
Single-payer aside, Sanders chalks up the difficulty Democrats have had passing health care to a mistaken belief about party unity when reform efforts kicked off.
"The major error Democrats undertook was to assume we had 60 votes or even 59," he said. "We never had that."
Sanders said he thinks Democrats have 50 votes in the Senate to pass a bill "certainly to include a public option." It was a bit of good news for progressives, who have turned their attention to using reconciliation in the Senate to bolster a reform bill with the addition of a public option.