Progressive House Democrat unveils bill to allow state-based 'Medicare for All'

Progressive House Democrat unveils bill to allow state-based 'Medicare for All'
© Stefani Reynolds

A progressive House Democrat on Friday unveiled a bill to make it easier for states to set up their own "Medicare for All" programs, providing a different potential path towards the goal. 

The bill from Rep. Ro KhannaRohit (Ro) KhannaDemocrats eye additional relief checks for coronavirus Defense Production Act urgently needed for critical medical gear 20 House Dems call on Trump to issue two-week, nationwide shelter-in-place order MORE (D-Calif.) would allow states to apply for waivers with the federal government that would let states pool federal money to be used towards a single-payer system, combining money states currently get through programs like Medicaid, Medicare and the Affordable Care Act. 

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The idea is that states could be early adopters of a Medicare for All system and inspire other states or the federal government to follow their lead. Khanna cited as an example the Canadian province of Saskatchewan, which adopted government-run health insurance in 1947 before the idea expanded to the whole country. 

“While Senator McConnell and President TrumpDonald John TrumpCampaigns face attack ad dilemma amid coronavirus crisis Outgoing inspector general says Trump fired him for carrying out his 'legal obligations' Trump hits Illinois governor after criticism: 'I hear him complaining all the time' MORE do all they can to obstruct progress at the federal level, this bill allows states with bold leadership to establish their own successful universal health care programs in order to prove how viable our movement is on the national level,” Khanna said in a statement. “This is how bold states like California can take the lead in making Medicare for All a reality.”

Khanna’s bill has no chance of passing the Senate under Republican control and with President Trump in the White House, but it could prove more amenable to some Democrats than a full-scale national single-payer plan if Democrats were to win back the Senate and White House in 2020. 

The bill has 15 co-sponsors in the House, including Rep. Pramila JayapalPramila JayapalSome Sanders top allies have urged him to withdraw from 2020 race: report Pelosi says House will review Senate coronavirus stimulus package Critical supplies shortage hampers hospitals, health providers MORE (D-Wash.), a leader of the national single-payer bill in the House, and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-CortezAlexandria Ocasio-CortezOvernight Health Care: Global coronavirus cases top 1M | Cities across country in danger of becoming new hotspots | Trump to recommend certain Americans wear masks | Record 6.6M file jobless claims Trump blasts Schumer over 'incorrect sound bites' on coronavirus Trump warns against 'partisan investigations' after Pelosi establishes select committee on virus response MORE (D-N.Y.).

Vermont has already tried to establish a single-payer system at the state level, but eventually scrapped the plan in 2014 because of problems finding ways to pay for it.  

But supporters think the idea could work in a larger state with the aid of bills like Khanna’s.