You’ve probably heard the term Medicare for All tossed around, but do you have an understanding of the basics? Here’s a brief overview of everything you need to know about the single-payer healthcare system.
The first Medicare for All bill
In 2003, Representative John Conyers (D-MI) introduced the Expanded and Improved Medicare for All Act, a bill that would create a single-payer healthcare system. The bill was mostly ignored by Democrats and Republicans alike, but Conyers reintroduced the bill to Congress every single session until he retired in December 2017.
How Medicare for All gained traction
Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) introduced his version of a Medicare for All bill in 2013 and receive zero co-sponsors. When he ran for president in 2016, Sanders made Medicare for All a major part of his platform and launched single-payer healthcare into the national spotlight. In 2017, he introduced another Medicare for All bill and received 14 co-sponsors.
The official Medicare for All bill
In April of 2019, House Democrats released their official Medicare for All bill, which received over 100 co-sponsors before it was officially presented on the House floor. It currently has 118 co-sponsors, though Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi does not intend to bring it to a vote.
The official House bill aims to:
- Create a single-payer, government-funded healthcare system
- Abolish the age restrictions for Medicare
- Cover every American within two years
- Eliminate beneficiaries’ copays, premiums, and deductibles
- Cover prescription drugs, vision, dental, mental health, substance abuse, and maternal care
- Provide long-term coverage for people with disabilities
How expensive is Medicare for All?
A 2018 survey funded by the Koch brothers sought to prove Medicare for All would be a financial burden to taxpayers. However, researchers at the Mercatus Center at George Mason University found that a single-payer healthcare system could save taxpayers about $16 trillion.
How could Medicare for All save taxpayers money?
- Administrative expenses. By cutting down on administrative costs, which account for 25 percent of healthcare costs in the United States, the bill could save $8.3 trillion over 10 years.
- Drug prices. If the Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) were empowered to negotiate drug prices with pharmaceutical companies, it could save taxpayers $1.7 trillion.
- Premiums and deductibles. Taxes would go up under this plan, but premiums and deductibles would be a thing of the past and directly save taxpayers billions of dollars each year.
- Wages. When premiums are not deducted from paychecks, workers’ net wages would increase.
- Medicaid. The bill would also free up billions of dollars that states spend on Medicaid each year, as all individuals would automatically be covered under Medicare instead.
Who opposes Medicare for All?
Private healthcare providers are the most powerful group to oppose Medicare for All. Single-payer healthcare is also opposed by many labor unions, hospitals, doctors, pharmaceutical companies, the American Medical Association, and about 30 percent of the American public.
Some of their reasons for not supporting the bill include:
- A drastic, fundamental change to the healthcare industry the country knows
- Loss of jobs for current insurance, medical, and pharmaceutical industry workers
- Tax increases on the middle class
- Reduced innovation for medicine and medical technology
- People who like their private or employer-sponsored plans would be forced to switch
Alternatives to Medicare for All
Many alternatives to single-payer healthcare are on the table. Most of these bills would expand coverage to current beneficiaries and adjust who qualifies for coverage.
- Medicare for All Who Want It. South Bend, Indiana Mayor and presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg believes a public option will provide a smooth transition to single-payer–at some point in the near future. His bill Medicare for All Who Want It bill provides choice while covering all Americans.
- Medicare for America. When the former Texas Representative Beto O’Rourke ran his often viral Senate campaign in 2017, he said Medicare for All was the “best way.” As a presidential candidate, he now supports Medicare for America, a plan which also has a public Medicare buy-in option.
- Choose Medicare. Proposed by Senators Jeff Merkley (D-OR) and Chris Murphy (D-CT), the Choose Medicare Act would establish Medicare Part E–a branch similar to Original Medicare that individuals of all ages and employers could purchase.
- Medicare for All with private insurance. Senator and presidential candidate Kamala Harris (D-CA) has a plan to transition the country to a single-payer system within 10 years, but intends to allow private insurance companies to play a part during the transition, and maybe after.
- Expand Obamacare. Prominent Democratic figures like former Vice President and presidential candidate Joe Biden say Obamacare is working, and we need to build onto it by creating a public option.