A watershed day for 'Medicare for all'

A watershed day for 'Medicare for all'
© Greg Nash

I recently spoke with a woman whose mother put off seeing a doctor until she became eligible for Medicare. When she finally did see a doctor, she learned that she had cancer, and it was too late for treatment. She died shortly after her diagnosis.

Her story is all too common. In the richest nation on earth, people are suffering and dying because they cannot afford quality health care. That is unacceptable. In 2018, Democrats campaigned on the declaration that health care is a human right. The American people responded by voting many of them into office.


Now the people we elected have the opportunity to deliver on the promise of quality, guaranteed health care for each and every American.

On Tuesday, the House Rules Committee held the first-ever hearing on the Medicare for All Act of 2019, H.R. 1384, introduced by Rep. Pramila JayapalPramila JayapalSanders offers bill to tax billionaires' wealth gains during pandemic Matt Stoller: Big tech House grilling the most important hearing on corporate power since the 1930s Hillicon Valley: House panel grills tech CEOs during much anticipated antitrust hearing | TikTok to make code public as it pushes back against 'misinformation' | House Intel panel expands access to foreign disinformation evidence MORE (D-Was.). This hearing marked the start of a legislative process to achieve universal coverage and lower costs.

This legislation will take a giant leap forward in the provision of health care in this country. Health-care industry lobbyists want us to think guaranteeing everyone the care they need is too much to ask. They are wrong.

Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security and the Affordable Care Act all met the same resistance from entrenched corporate interests. But each time, Congress turned the will of the people into expanded access to health care and made us a more prosperous, humane and healthier nation. Congress can do it again with "Medicare for all."

There is broad public support for single-payer health care in poll after poll. The Medicare for All Act already has over 100 co-sponsors in the House.

There are other proposals. But Medicare for All is the best proposal for lowering costs and achieving universal coverage. It covers long-term care, home health care, mental health, maternity care, abortion services, prescription drugs and dental benefits.

The Medicare for All Act is also the only plan that will allow us to fix our corrupt, broken health-care system. Big corporations have captured the industry, pursuing outsized profits instead of affordable, quality care. 

Health-care providers and networks are highly concentrated, and they have enormous leverage that they use to keep their prices high. 

With the Medicare for All Act, we the people can defeat corporate greed and bring down sky-high health-care costs. 

That’s why corporate lobbyists are swarming the halls of Congress to defeat single-payer health plans. The health sector has spent $156,501,580 on lobbying in 2019 alone — more than any other sector so far this year!

The industry has gone into overdrive trying desperately to convince the public and policymakers that here in America, the wealthiest nation on earth, we can’t provide our people with high-quality health care.

The American people aren’t buying it. Audience members showed their support when Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersThe Memo: Trump team pounces on Biden gaffes The Hill's Campaign Report: US officials say Russia, China are looking to sow discord in election Warren urges investment in child care workers amid pandemic MORE (I-Vt.) demanded "Medicare for all" on Fox News.


Our voices are growing stronger every day. People flocked to Washington this week by the busloads. People’s Action, National Nurses United, the Center for Popular Democracy and so many others are organizing and amplifying the popular demand for the health care we deserve.

"Medicare for all" champions Rep. Jayapal and Rep. Debbie DingellDeborah (Debbie) Ann DingellMichigan Rep. Debbie Dingell easily wins House primary Court orders release of Black Michigan teen who was jailed for missing schoolwork Lobbying world MORE (D-Mich.) are carrying forward a mandate from the people to fix this broken system. Meanwhile, Republicans hide from their constituents rather than admit that they have nothing to offer but making the current broken system worse.

This is a historic moment. The first-ever hearing in the Rules Committee is a chance for us to flip the script. It is a chance for Congress to say that we are finally going to put American families ahead of health-care industry profits.  

When we insist on health care as a human right, we win.

Liz Watson is the executive director of the Progressive Caucus Action Fund and the former labor policy director of the House Education and Labor Committee.