Progressive House Democrats are set to unveil the 2019 version of their Medicare for All legislation, a sweeping overhaul of the current health care system that promises to provide guaranteed health care to every American.
The bill, introduced by Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-WA), co-chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, has more than 100 co-sponsors and will be the subject of hearings in the House after its formal introduction on Wednesday.
“Enough nibbling around the edges,” Jayapal said on a call with reporters on Tuesday. “We really need to transform this system to put health care over profit.”
The bill would establish a two-year transition for a national Medicare for All program, according to a summary of the legislation reviewed by The Daily Beast, and allow for benefits to be available for all eligible citizens two years after enactment. After the first year, the bill would make benefits available to eligible people under 19 or over 55.
Additionally, the bill would prohibit the sale of health insurance coverage that duplicates benefits available under the program. It would allow for the sale of insurance and employer-sponsored benefits to supplement Medicare the coverage. The legislation would also provide long-term care to people with disabilities, an addition that was pushed by disability advocates.
Jayapal said that legislators don’t have specifics on funding for now but she mentioned ideas including a tax on millionaires and billionaires, repealing components of the Republican tax plan and closing loopholes for wealthy Americans.
But the day before the official release of the bill, leaders of the moderate Democratic group called the Blue Dogs were already showing opposition to overhauling most of the health-insurance system.
“Ideas make for healthy debate and a healthy democracy, we will be looking at all of these proposals through the lens of making sure that we are fiscally responsible and also that we address the issue in a pragmatic way,” said Rep. Stephanie Murphy (D-FL), the co-chair of the Blue Dog Democrats, adding that she had met with constituents with tears in their eyes over the cost of health care and prescription drugs.
“They need solutions that will help them today,” she said. “In order for us to help them today, we need to find ways to stabilize the health care market and ensure that everyone has access to quality and affordable care in a way that can pass through a divided Congress.”
Rep. Tom O’Halleran (D-AZ) added they were still trying to understand what was involved in the proposal.
“We are trying to work with people to get a better understanding of the fiscal issues involved, the dynamics of how it’s going to affect the American people and get a better understanding of that before you start putting out there concepts and ideas that are expected but can’t be attained.” he said.
Rep. Kurt Schrader (D-OR) was more blunt.
“Our focus is going to be on the ACA, fixing that, get some stability,” he said, referring to the Affordable Care Act. “Let’s get something done that America needs right now. We’ll let the far left progressives...do their thing, talk about this, it needs to be aired, to leadership’s point here, but the American people desperately need the health care system to be fixed now.”
Jayapal rejected the idea that Medicare for All was relegated to the left wing of the party.
“We have a number of our frontline members, not even members of the Progressive Caucus, who are signed on to this bill, who ran on the bill and in fact won in swing districts,” she said. “I think that Democrats need to think about who we’re responsive to. Of course, we stand united on the need to shore up the Affordable Care Act. But beyond that we need to move to a transformation.”
The bill’s introduction comes as the Medicare for All idea has become a central issue in the 2020 Democratic presidential primary, with many of the early contenders for the nomination throwing their support behind the idea. Four of the contenders who are current members of the Senate have signed on as co-sponsors to the version Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) introduced last Congress.
A Medicare for All bill was first introduced in the House in 2003, by then-Rep. John Conyers (D-MI), along with 38 Democratic cosponsors. By 2017, it had 128 Democratic cosponsors. That group included high-profile progressives, outspoken moderates like Rep. Tim Ryan (D-OH), and the party’s number three leader in the House, Rep. Jim Clyburn (D-SC).
The new bill seeks to build on the Conyers and the Sanders legislation, rather than adopt the provisions of each of those efforts entirely.
While optimistic about their chances, Jaypal conceded they would face tough opposition, particularly from the insurance industry.
“The money, money, money, ain’t it funny of the industry groups that are going to fight us every step of the way, that are not going to take seriously the crisis that we have and others who are afraid to take on such a big challenge,” she said. “The problem is when the market is broken, you have to transform the market.”