Dem lawmakers call for single-payer healthcare

Dem lawmakers call for single-payer healthcare
© Greg Nash

A group of House Democrats called Wednesday for a single-payer, “Medicare for All” healthcare insurance system amid Republicans' ObamaCare repeal push.

The roughly half a dozen Democrats were led by Rep. John Conyers Jr. (D-Mich.), the longest-serving member of the House, who has for years sponsored legislation to create a single-payer healthcare system that would see the government provide health insurance for everyone.

The lawmakers attacked Republican efforts to repeal ObamaCare, but argued that the country also needs to go further than the current health law.

“We can fight fiercely to protect the Affordable Care Act and also look a little bit farther in terms of establishing Medicare for All,” Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.), a high-profile single-payer advocate and vice-chairman of the Democratic National Committee, said at the press conference.

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Conyers touted that his Medicare for All bill now has the most co-sponsors it has ever had with 111 lawmakers — more than half of the House Democratic caucus. The chairman of the House Democratic caucus, Rep. Joseph Crowley (D-N.Y.), joined as a co-sponsor of the bill earlier this week.

“I’ve never seen more energy behind this issue of Medicare for All,” Conyers said.

He noted that even under ObamaCare, 10 percent of the public is still uninsured, saying “the status quo is not enough.”

But House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi (Calif.) has said that the time has not yet come for a push for single-payer on the national level.

“The comfort level with a broader base of the American people is not there yet,” Pelosi said at a press conference earlier this month. “It doesn't mean it couldn't be. States are a good place to start.”

“I was carrying around single-payer signs probably before you were born, so I, you know, I understand that aspiration,” she noted.

Pelosi also called for a state-level public option for health insurance at the California Democratic Party Convention last weekend. 

"We must defeat the repeal of the Affordable Care Act. But that is not our only fight," she said. "We must go further! The Affordable Care Act enables every state to create a public option. I believe California can lead the way for America by creating a strong public option."

Ellison said that he thought it would be good politics for Democrats to run on single payer in 2018.

“It's not the proper role of me at the DNC to tell people what they're going to stand for, that's a choice the candidates make for themselves, but I recommend that you win your election and I think a good way to do it is to support Conyers's bill,” Ellison said.

Conyers was then asked if he wished Pelosi supported the bill.

“Well, sure, I would like every member of Congress to be supportive, but as was just previously stated, every member's got to run their own campaign based on their beliefs,” Conyers said.

This story was updated at 11:45 a.m.