One Year Into Pandemic, 109 Democrats Get Behind Renewed Medicare for All Effort

Two Democratic lawmakers, joined by over 100 cosponsors, introduced a Medicare for All bill on Wednesday, reinvigorating the call for single-payer health coverage in the United States they say is needed now more than ever.

Representatives Pramila Jayapal (D-Washington) and Debbie Dingell (D-Michigan) introduced the measure while speaking at a virtual town hall event on Wednesday afternoon. The pair of lawmakers noted the need for the proposal was especially evident in light of hundreds of thousands of deaths in the U.S. that have occurred over the past year due to the coronavirus pandemic.

“It was exactly one year ago that every single state across this country had a confirmed Covid-19 case, and in the 365 days since, the case for Medicare for All has never been clearer,” Jayapal said during the live streaming event.

Those remarks matched ones she made earlier in the week, prior to the official unveiling of the proposed legislation.

“Everybody is seeing the chaos and the destruction that the pandemic has caused. And it’s really making people look and [ask], could we have had something different had we had a Medicare for All system in place?” Jayapal said on Tuesday.

In a tweet she wrote on Wednesday, Dingell noted that, in addition to providing health coverage to millions of Americans, Medicare for All would also help alleviate economic burdens for many in the U.S.

“In the wealthiest country in the world, people shouldn’t be launching GoFundMe pages to pay for lifesaving health care,” Dingell said. “#MedicareForAll will guarantee everyone access to the health care they need without going broke.”

The bill currently has 109 cosponsors, all Democrats, and a majority of the party’s caucus in the House of Representatives. However, it faces steep opposition and an uphill battle at passage, as it’s likely that every Republican in the House would vote against the measure, and some Democrats would do so as well — and that’s if the bill could even get out of committee, which no Medicare for All bill has done as of yet.

Supposing the bill could pass the House, it would face even more difficult odds in the divided Senate. Even then, the measure would not likely be signed into law by President Joe Biden, who campaigned in 2020 against similar proposals.

“Throughout his campaign, the President did not support Medicare for all. He campaigned on his own plan and that is the plan the American people voted for,” a White House official said to The Washington Post regarding the proposal. “He is continuing to pursue his own plan, not Medicare for All.”

Concerns about the current, for-profit system of health care, however, and how it has functioned during the pandemic, are valid. In fact, a report from the medical journal The Lancet stated last month that the U.S. health care system had contributed to hundreds of thousands of unnecessary deaths in the years prior to COVID-19, adding that employing a system of care similar to what other wealthy nations have could have resulted in 40 percent fewer deaths from the virus.

Indeed, that same report went on to suggest that the remedy for reducing excess deaths in the U.S. is a single-payer program akin to Medicare for All.

Such a system of healthcare could “reverse the harmful shift toward the commercialisation of care that began in earnest in the 1980s,” and “could inaugurate a new era of respect for the human right to health and health care,” the report added.