The 116th Congress convened early this month, and the House is packed with Democrats hungry to pass Medicare for All. The new Democratic majority in the House will hold hearings for the Medicare for All movement after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi threw her support behind the process.
Is Medicare for All a reality?
In short, not yet. Medicare for All won’t pass until Democrats have control of the Senate and White House again. The movement for Medicare for All, while a bit of a pipe dream, has been for the purpose of moving Democrats further to the left on the issue of healthcare so that when the time comes, Democrats will be on board with Medicare for All.
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The history of Medicare for All
Democrats have been pushing for some form of universal healthcare for decades. In 2003, then-Rep. John Conyers Jr. of Michigan introduced The Expanded and Improved Medicare for All Act, making it a vehicle to expand American healthcare into a single-payer system like most developed countries.
The bill was a flop at the time, but Senator Bernie Sanders picked up the cause again with gusto during his 2016 presidential campaign where it gained national attention and the support of an estimated 70 percent of the American population.
In response to the hearings scheduled in the House, Senator Sanders said, “I want to congratulate the House for holding hearings for the first time on Medicare for All. I’m confident the results will show that Medicare for All is the way forward if we want to guarantee health care to all people in a cost-effective way.”
Many healthcare lobbyists are critical of the Medicare for All movement, saying Democrats are turning a blind eye to the popularity of Medicare Advantage, which are Medicare plans sold by private insurers. These plans often come with extra benefits, like additional coverage for things Original Medicare doesn’t cover and out-of-pocket limits. At least one-third of all Medicare enrollees have a Medicare Advantage plan.
However, many have it in mind that Medicare for All would include the private insurer option of Medicare Advantage. This would mean that no Medicare beneficiary pleased with their Medicare plan would have their coverage disrupted.
Even some labor unions are pushing back against Medicare for All, claiming it would be a decrease in the quality of healthcare they’ve fought so hard to gain and protect.
Several newly-elected House Representatives are throwing their support behind the movement, including Sylvia R. Garcia of Texas, Jahana Hayes of Connecticut, Joe Neguse of Colorado, Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, Katie Porter of California, Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts, Rashida Tlaib of Michigan, and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York.
Although President Obama shunned Medicare for All during his tenure, he’s since changed his tune. In a recent campaign-style speech, he said, “Democrats aren’t just running on good old ideas like a higher minimum wage. They’re running on good new ideas like Medicare for All.”
Representative Deb Haaland, Democrat of New Mexico and one of the first Native American Congresswomen, said, “There are a lot of insurance companies and medical companies that are advocating for their own best interests, and those best interests are usually money, and not people’s health. We need a national public health care system, which would be more affordable in the long run, and the outcomes might be better.”
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