On Medicare's birthday, a call to make it universal

As Medicare supporters are celebrating the program's 45th birthday Friday, several Capitol Hill liberals are wondering: Why not expand it to everyone?

Reps. Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio) and John Conyers (D-Mich.) joined Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) this week in calling on Congress to adopt their bills creating a single-payer healthcare system based on the successes of Medicare.

“In my view, the single-payer approach is the only way we will ever have a cost-effective, comprehensive health care system in this country,” Sanders said Friday in a statement. 

“One of the reasons our current health care system is so expensive, so wasteful, so bureaucratic, so inefficient is that it is heavily dominated by private health insurance companies whose only goal in life is to make as much money as they can.”

In an open letter to anyone interested, the lawmakers argue the new reform law doesn't do nearly enough to contain costs — meaning Congress will be forced to return to the issue not far down the road. 

"When it is time for Congress to try to control health care costs again, the demand for Medicare for All must be undeniable," they wrote. "The truth is not enough. We already know that [single-payer] has repeatedly proven to control costs more effectively, cover everyone or almost everyone, and deliver care of significantly higher quality than health care systems that tolerate the presence of private insurance companies.

"Now we must make it so that the truth can no longer be ignored."

Last year, House Democrats adopted a single-payer healthcare plan to compete with private companies on insurance exchanges. It didn't pass the Senate. But party leaders never seriously considered Medicare for all as part of their reforms.