What You Need to Know
- The bill would replace and ban all forms of private health coverage, including Medicare Advantage plans.
- Supporters say countries with single-payer systems have handled the COVID-19 pandemic better.
- The likelihood that the bill will pass in the current Congress appear to be low.
Progressive Democrats are reviving their Medicare for All plan this week, part of a push for universal health coverage they say is even more urgent after the coronavirus pandemic//jayapal.house.gov/wp-content/uploads/2021/03/Medicare-for-All-text.pdf exposed and exacerbated disparities in the U.S. health care system.
The bill has little chance of passing this Congress with Republicans and moderate Democrats opposing its wide reach, but the measure lays out progressive priorities for transforming a health care system worth nearly a fifth of U.S. gross domestic product. The plan would eliminate private health insurance and require the federal government to establish a single-payer program that covers all U.S. residents.
Rep. Pramila Jayapal of Washington state, the head of the Congressional Progressive Caucus and one of the bill’s sponsors, said the American public increasingly supports a larger role for government in health care.
“While this devastating pandemic is shining a bright light on our broken, for-profit health care system, we were already leaving nearly half of all adults under the age of 65 uninsured or under-insured before COVID-19 hit,” Jayapal said. “And we were cruelly doing so while paying more per capita for health care than any other country in the world.”
President Joe Biden has stopped short of supporting Medicare for All, saying he prefers to expand the Affordable Care Act.
Advocates for a more comprehensive approach say overhauling the entire system in one piece of legislation would yield more savings and provide better outcomes for patients.
“It would be a tough lift in the Senate, but it’s an important time to be laying the groundwork,” said Eagan Kemp, a health care policy advocate for Public Citizen, a consumer advocacy nonprofit. “Passing Medicare for All at once is sort of the most advantageous because you then get all of those savings, but we also support improvements in the health care system.”
The limitations of the American health system have been especially apparent during the global pandemic. Millions of people were left without health insurance when they lost their jobs. Unequal access to care contributed to the pandemic’s disproportionate impact on communities of color.