By Rep. Pramila Jayapal
NBC News, Think, December 10, 2019
In spite of all the money that corporations are pouring into attacks and disinformation, “Medicare for All” is an incredibly resilient and popular idea. Almost two-thirds of the American people have a positive reaction to the proposal, including an overwhelming majority of Democrats and about 62 percent of independent voters.
It’s easy to understand why: 34 million American adults know someone who died after not getting the treatment they needed due to costs. Medical debt, even after the Affordable Care Act, drives more than 500,000 people into bankruptcy each year. Millions of people still forgo needed care or skimp on necessary life-sustaining medications — like insulin — because of rising out-of-pocket costs.
Medicare for All would provide the health care people desperately need while allowing the vast majority of Americans to pay less for it.
How? Unlike other proposals, only Medicare for All takes on corporate greed and administrative waste, reducing overall health care costs.
Only my Medicare for All bill would end the stranglehold of private insurance companies and fix our broken health care system that puts corporate profits ahead of patients and their health. It would reduce the 12 percent of health care dollars that go to insurance industry profits and high administrative costs, passing the savings along to the American people. (As a comparison, the administrative costs of Medicare are only 1.1 percent, or 6-7 percent if you include private Medicare plans.)
That’s why the corporate interests pushing the falsehood that Medicare for All costs “too much” are asking you to ignore the reality that the only thing that costs too much is our current for-profit system that ignores patients for corporate profits.
America currently spends almost double what other peer countries spend — over $10,000 dollars per person — while still having some of the worst health outcomes. We have the highest infant mortality and maternal mortality rates in the developed world and the lowest life expectancy rates. The costs of our current health care system are projected to balloon to $55 trillion over the next 10 years.
All that money, and we still wouldn’t cover everyone or provide comprehensive care.
One prominent study from the University of Massachusetts Amherst found that Medicare for All would save around $5 trillion over the next 10 years. And even opponents of Medicare for All can’t escape that the program would produce significant cost savings: A study by the conservative “free-market” Mercatus Center, which is heavily supported by the Koch Brothers, found that Medicare for All would save over $2 trillion over 10 years.
All of that while it would guarantee every American comprehensive health coverage — for medical, dental, vision, mental health, prescription drugs and long-term care — with no copays, private insurance premiums or deductibles. It would also cover everyone, unlike our current system which, in the richest country in the world, still leaves more than 70 million uninsured or underinsured, and forces tens of millions to forgo the care they need when they need it because they are worried about its cost.
Medicare for All will give Americans more choice than ever before, with access to all doctors and providers in the country rather than just the ones who agreed to any given insurance company’s reimbursement rates. It would provide one guaranteed plan so that you’re always covered, regardless of whether you switch employers, want to start a small business or need to stay home to take care of yourself or a loved one.
No other proposal comes close to offering these benefits or choice. Other bills maintain a limited set of provisions and retain the for-private insurance companies that narrow health care provider networks and restrict access to care.
And other plans that leave the private, for-profit insurance companies in place do not tackle the overall costs of the system. Maintaining a public option will allow private insurance companies to continue to game the system, cherry picking healthy people, dropping those with high medical needs and pushing them into the government plan.
In fact, by preserving the inefficiencies of our current system and adding 30 more million Americans to this broken system, a public option will likely lead to higher overall health care spending.
That is why, on Tuesday, when the House Energy and Commerce Committee conducts its first hearing on “universal health care coverage,” I believe that only one proposal will fully guarantee comprehensive care, lower costs and harness the grassroots energy we need to truly achieve universal health care. That proposal is Medicare for All.
Our bill has the support of over 30 labor unions, 250 economists, an expanding business coalition, a broad and diverse range of progressive and racial justice organizations and over half the House Democratic Caucus. And there are over 250 efforts underway to pass local and county resolutions in support of Medicare for All, with organizers knocking on doors, making phone calls, delivering petitions, and lobbying their elected officials to make change.
This groundswell of support is the reason Medicare for All has made so much progress in Congress: This is the fourth hearing to be held in the House, as the committees on Rules, Budget and Ways and Means already held other, historic hearings earlier this year.
The American people are ready for a health care system that works for them, rather than one they have to work to understand and access. The time has come for Congress to work for the American people and finally pass the only plan that guarantees universal health care coverage: Medicare for All.
Rep. Pramila Jayapal is a second-term Democrat representing Washington’s seventh district. She serves as co-chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, a senior Democratic whip, and on the committees on Budget, Education and Labor, and Judiciary.