Progressive Democrats unveil Medicare for all plan in House

Progressive Democrats unveil Medicare for all plan in House
© Greg Nash

Rep. Pramila JayapalPramila JayapalCentrist Democrats raise concerns over minimum wage push Centrist Democrats raise concerns over minimum wage push Overnight Health Care: Democratic bill would require insurance to cover OTC birth control | House Dems vote to overturn ban on fetal tissue research | New rule aims to expand health choices for small businesses MORE (D-Wash.) on Tuesday unveiled a revised Medicare for all bill, with more than 100 cosponsors, as the idea gains steam among leading Democrats.

The bill from Jayapal, a progressive leader in the House, would cover replace private insurance companies with a government-run health insurance system. She plans to formally introduce the measure in the House on Wednesday.

“We are very excited to get to work on providing true universal coverage for everyone in this country,” Jayapal told reporters on a call Tuesday.

The measure has no chance of making it into law at the moment, but serves as a marker of where progressives want to steer the conversation ahead of the 2020 election.

The 2020 presidential candidates have taken a variety of stances on what “Medicare for all” means, with some favoring more incremental steps like allowing people 55 and over to buy into Medicare.

Jayapal emphasized Tuesday that Medicare for all means a full-scale, government-run health insurance system for everyone.

“This medicare for all bill really makes it clear what we mean by Medicare for all,” Jayapal said. “We mean a system where there are no private insurance companies that provide these core comprehensive benefits.”

Jayapal’s measure would cover everyone, while preserving the Veterans Administration and Indian Health Service. It would not require any deductibles or copays from patients receiving care.

The bill does not spell out how it would be paid for, a major question given that similar versions have been estimated to cost the government around $30 trillion over 10 years.

Downplaying concerns over the cost, Jayapal said there is little interest in how to pay for military spending, or tax cuts, but “all of a sudden” there are questions over providing health insurance to all.

Backers also point out that there would be massive savings from eliminating private insurance premiums and deductibles, which would mean costs are largely just being shifted from the private sector to public sector.

The measure had 102 cosponsors as of Tuesday morning, a Jayapal aide said, less than the 124 cosponsors that a different Medicare for all bill had last year.

But Jayapal argued that is not a sign the idea has lost support, noting that many of those cosponsors did not sign on immediately when the bill was introduced in the last Congress, and she likewise expects to keep growing the number.

More centrist House Democrats reject Medicare for all, leading to a balancing act for Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiCalifornia Democrat in swing district calls for Trump impeachment inquiry California Democrat in swing district calls for Trump impeachment inquiry Overnight Defense: US to send 1K more troops to Mideast amid Iran tensions | Iran threatens to break limit on uranium production in 10 days | US accuses Iran of 'nuclear blackmail' | Details on key defense bill amendments MORE (D-Calif.).

Pelosi has given her support for hearings for Medicare for all, but has not supported the legislation itself, saying the idea needs to be evaluated.

The health-care industry is already running ads against Medicare for all.

“We can all agree that more should be done to improve access to quality, affordable care – but this costly, disruptive one-size-fits-all proposal is the wrong path forward,” said Lauren Crawford Shaver, executive director of the industry group Partnership for America’s Health Care Future.   “Instead, let’s protect and improve upon what is working in American health care, and come together to fix what isn’t.”