Health

Liberal Dems lay groundwork to push Medicare for All

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Democrats are laying the groundwork to make a push for “Medicare for All” legislation if they win back the House in November.

More than 60 House Democrats launched a Medicare for All caucus this month, a sign of the popularity surrounding the concept of a government-run health insurance system for all that’s supported by liberal firebrands like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.

The caucus plans to hold briefings with experts as part of its efforts to revise a previous bill that will act as the framework for future legislation to establish single-payer national health insurance.

“We’re going to do what it takes to get health care for every American,” said Rep. Debbie DingellDeborah (Debbie) Ann DingellHillicon Valley: Officials pressed on Russian interference at security forum | FCC accuses Sinclair of deception | Microsoft reveals Russia tried to hack three 2018 candidates | Trump backs Google in fight with EU | Comcast gives up on Fox bid Overnight Health Care: Novartis pulls back on drug price hikes | House Dems launch Medicare for All caucus | Trump officials pushing ahead on Medicaid work requirements House Dems launching Medicare for All Caucus MORE (D-Mich.), one of the co-chairs of the new caucus.

When asked if she wanted the House to vote on a Medicare for All bill next year if Democrats control the chamber, Dingell said, “Yes, we’re going to travel the country talking about why it makes a difference.”

Rep. John YarmuthJohn Allen YarmuthOvernight Health Care: Trump meets with Pfizer CEO amid pricing push | Kentucky reinstates dental, vision Medicaid benefits | Spending by health lobby groups down in second quarter Kentucky reinstates dental, vision benefits in Medicaid Dem lawmaker: Trump finally got his ‘largest audience ever’ in London protests MORE (D-Ky.), the top Democrat on the Budget Committee, said he plans to hold hearings on how to pay for Medicare for All next year if he ends up wielding the chairman’s gavel.

While a government-run health insurance system like the one being discussed by Democrats has no real chance of becoming law with President TrumpDonald John TrumpClinton maxes out to 19 Democratic House candidates Tucker Carlson slams immigrant lawyer as ‘citizen of country controlled by conquistadors’ Trump highlights praise from judge on reuniting families his administration divided MORE in office, House action on the issue next year would move the ball forward and intensify the debate within the Democratic Party for 2020.

Democratic leaders have not endorsed that kind of drastic change to the American health-care system, but they haven’t ruled it out either.

House Democratic Leader Nancy PelosiNancy Patricia D'Alesandro PelosiDem pollster: Party shouldn’t focus on ‘promises of free everything’ Michigan Dem mulls leadership bid in House Democratic Indiana congressional candidate won’t support Pelosi MORE (Calif.) said last month that proposals like Medicare for All would “have to be evaluated in terms of the access that they give, the affordability of it and how we would pay for it.”

“But again, it’s all on the table,” she added.

The Medicare for All caucus held its first briefing at the end of June for about 50 staff members, with presentations from single-payer proponents like Physicians for a National Health Program and the National Nurses United union.

Leaders of the caucus are planning to revise a single-payer bill in January 2017 by former Rep. John ConyersJohn James ConyersFeds launch major crackdown on sexual harassment by landlords AP Analysis: 25 state lawmakers running in 2018 have been accused of sexual misconduct Portland activist stages ‘reparations happy hour’ MORE (D-Mich.). The measure has 123 Democratic cosponsors.

“The idea would be to introduce something that has a little bit more detail and is an actual legislative path,” said Rep. Pramila JayapalPramila JayapalDems seek probe into EPA head’s meetings with former clients Dem lawmaker: ICE agents lied to migrant child, said mother ‘abandoned’ her Gillibrand: ‘We should get rid of ICE’ if Dems flip House and Senate MORE (D-Wash.), another co-chair of the caucus.

“Depending on how many people campaigned on it, which I think is going to be a majority of our caucus, you might see a bill,” Yarmuth said.

But some Democrats worry that Medicare for All would be too costly.

“It opens us to many questions from Republicans about costs,” said Rep. Lloyd DoggettLloyd Alton DoggettDemocrats have a Medicare negotiation plan that terrifies Big Pharma Dems court conservative firebrand in Medicare drug fight Overnight Health Care: Trump official slams ‘Medicare for All’ | House votes to delay ObamaCare health insurance tax | Senate panel advances bill banning drug ‘gag clauses’ MORE (D-Texas).

A study published Monday by the right-leaning Mercatus Center at George Mason University said a Medicare for All plan would increase government health-care spending by $32 trillion over 10 years.

“It is just absurd,” Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanGOP leaders hope to circumvent Trump on shutdown Overnight Defense: Trump doubles down on shutdown threat | Why shutdown talk worries the military | Trump open to meeting Iranian leaders | Twelve times Trump surprised the Pentagon On The Money: Trump doubles down on shutdown threat | Trump reportedly weighing big tax cut for the rich | Chamber says helping all sectors hit by tariffs would cost B MORE (R-Wis.) tweeted about the price tag.

Supporters hit back by saying the study found total national health care spending would decrease; it’s just that the government’s share of that spending would grow significantly under Medicare for All.

Rep. Frank Pallone Jr.Frank Joseph PalloneCongressional watchdog finds Energy Dept. violated law with anti-ObamaCare tweet Overnight Health Care: Trump officials explore importing prescription drugs | Key ObamaCare, drug pricing regs under review | GOP looks to blunt attacks on rising premiums | Merck to lower some drug prices House Dems want answers on cuts to ObamaCare outreach groups MORE (N.J.), the top Democrat on the House Energy and Commerce Committee, did not rule out Medicare for All but made clear his focus would be on protecting ObamaCare against GOP attacks if he becomes chairman next year.

“We can certainly talk about single payer or Medicare for All, but I just think the most important thing is to shore up what we have and turn around this sabotage,” Pallone said.

“I’m not going to prejudge what we would have hearings on,” Pallone said when asked about whether he would hold hearings on Medicare for All.

Pelosi has also pivoted to touting the benefits of ObamaCare when asked about Medicare for All.

“I think she kind of wants to let everybody do their own thing,” Yarmuth said, adding that by not backing Medicare for All, Pelosi doesn’t “tie [lawmakers] to a position.”

If the measure did make it through the House, it would have more than a dozen supporters in the Senate, where Sen. Bernie SandersBernard (Bernie) SandersHillicon Valley: Manafort trial is Mueller’s first courtroom test | Dem eyes options for tech crackdown | Activist publishes 11K Wikileaks Twitter messages | Trump, officials huddle on election security | How the ‘Abolish ICE’ hashtag caught fire Overnight Health Care: Trump officials approve proposals to shore up ObamaCare | Study says ‘Medicare for All’ would cost .6T over 10 years | Dems court conservative Republican in drug pricing fight The Hill’s 12:30 Report MORE‘s (I-Vt.) Medicare for All bill has 16 cosponsors, including several potential Democratic presidential candidates.

Adam Green, co-founder of Progressive Change Campaign Committee, said that if Democrats win back the House, his organization will push for a series of health care votes on legislation addressing single-payer and somewhat less-drastic ideas like a public option.

“Often Democratic leadership follows the lead of their caucus and an incoming class of election winners,” Green said.

“That’s why it’s so significant that progressives have been winning primaries,” he added.

Ocasio-Cortez, who unexpectedly defeated Rep. Joe CrowleyJoseph (Joe) CrowleyHow Twitter vaulted ‘Abolish ICE’ into the mainstream New York chapter of Democratic Socialists of America endorses Cynthia Nixon Dem candidate raises 0K in week after Ocasio-Cortez, Sanders visit MORE (D) in last month’s New York primary, is a big proponent of Medicare for All.

If the Energy and Commerce Committee does not move forward on hearings, the Budget Committee under Yarmuth could still hold hearings to examine the potential fiscal impact of the legislation.

Yarmuth said a hearing could examine “whether it was feasible or not, whether it would kill the budget, whether it would help it, and what the impact would be.”

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