Democratic Representative Pramila Jayapal from Washington state, has introduced a new bill that would transition the U.S. healthcare system to a single-payer “Medicare for All” program funded by the government in two years.
The legislation is the party’s most high-profile and ambitious single-payer proposal in the new Congress and has more than 100 co-sponsors, many from the party’s progressive flank.
Jayapal highlighted support from various labor unions and public interest groups on Wednesday. She also disputed the notion that House members from ideologically balanced districts would not support the plan. One congressman who won a swing district last year – Rep. Josh Harder of California – appeared with Jayapal to back her plan Wednesday.
It is unlikely to gain the support of any Republicans in the House or the Senate, who have derided single-payer healthcare as a socialist policy and oppose government interference in healthcare. It also remains unclear whether Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi will bring the legislation up for a vote.
Medicare currently serves about 60 million Americans who are age 65 or older, or disabled. Jayapal’s legislation would eliminate the age threshold. The new Medicare would not require any beneficiaries to pay premiums or deductibles and would not charge patients co-pays or out-of-pocket costs after receiving care.
It does not include new or increased taxes or other additional revenues to pay for the healthcare overhaul. Jayapal said possible ways to pay for the bill include a tax on millionaires and billionaires, employer premiums and closing tax loopholes for the wealthy.
The idea of Medicare for All was first proposed by Independent Bernie Sanders as a single-payer system that would largely replace private insurance. It gained traction among Democrats running for congressional office in 2018, and is now a central campaign issue for party members vying for the 2020 presidential nomination.
The health industry has opposed single-payer proposals, saying they would ultimately lead to less access to care. Critics include the American Hospital Association and America’s Health Insurance Plans (AHIP), the health insurance industry’s biggest trade group.