Politics

House Democrats Launch 66-Member ‘Medicare for All’ Progressive Caucus

REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

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Robert Donachie Capitol Hill and Health Care Reporter

A group of House Democrats rolled out a new progressive caucus Thursday morning that will focus on researching and promoting a Medicare for All health care system in the U.S.

Democratic Reps. Pramila Jayapal of Washington and Debbie Dingell of Michigan, along with a handful of other House Democrats, formally launched the “Medicare for All” caucus at a ceremony in front of the Capitol building.

“We are united today by the common conviction that health care is a right,” Jayapal said, adding that it is long past time for the U.S. to move toward a more affordable system that meets the needs of all Americans.

The caucus will help build the evidence base for Medicare for All and act as a clearing house with resources for congressmen who are interested in learning more about the program. Its main goals will be helping members and the American people learn the basics of Medicare for All, finding potential ways of financing such a system and showing what they believe to be the many benefits of universal health care systems.

The caucus has 66 founding members as of Thursday’s launch, making it the largest-ever coalition of Democrats in Congress pushing for universal health coverage in the nation’s history.

Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, along with 16 Democrat co-sponsors, released a bill in September 2017 that would have transformed Medicare into a single-payer health care system, much like Jayapal and her House colleagues are pushing. That was, to date, the most popular Medicare for All push in congressional history. (RELATED: Sanders Releases Single-Payer Health Care Bill)

While it is unclear what proposal will come out of the new caucus, Sanders’s Medicare-for-All bill would have expanded Medicare into a national health insurance program, making every American citizen, including some 28 million who don’t have health insurance under Obamacare, eligible for the program. The bill would not have come into full effect for another three years, but it would have allowed children under the age of 18 to participate within the first year of its enactment.

Funding has always been a concern for single-payer bills in the past, even from left-leaning groups. The left-leaning Urban Institute scored one of Sanders’s previous Medicare for All proposals in 2016 and found that it would increase federal spending $32 trillion in only a decade.

Dingell tried to push back against the claims that Medicare for All will increase spending dramatically, arguing that the system would actually save money and bolster economic growth.

“We’ll reduce costs and have one payer … much like other industrialized nations,” Dingell said, before listing off a number of nations that currently have single-payer health care.

It “promises to save billions through efficiencies,” Jayapal said.

Medicare for All is becoming the prominent health care platform for Democrats in the House and Senate.

One of the founding members of the new House caucus — Democratic Rep. Keith Ellison of Minnesota — is a lead sponsor of the Expanded and Improved Medicare for All Act, a House resolution, that already has the support of the majority of the House Democratic conference.

Democrats Thursday, much like Republicans have argued since the implementation of Obamacare, said the Affordable Care Act was only a first step in a larger push for universal coverage.

The “ACA was a stepping stool,” Jayapal said, arguing it showed Americans how necessary it is to cover pre-existing conditions and provide every American an option for health insurance.

“If you keep pushing, we can make it happen,” Dingell said in reference to critics who claimed universal health care coverage could never happen in the U.S.

To Dingell’s credit, some polls have the majority of Americans supporting Medicare for All. An April Kaiser Family Foundation poll showed 51 percent of Americans support single-payer health care.

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