Members of the House of Representatives' Congressional Progressive Caucus rolled out their plan for a single-payer healthcare system Wednesday with the support of more than half of the Democratic caucus, including two key committee chairmen.
Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), chair of the CPC, reintroduced "Medicare for All" Wednesday, a proposal unlikely to pass this year but that sets the debate among Democrats and Republicans over how best to reform the healthcare system.
It would dramatically reshape the entire U.S. healthcare system, creating a national plan where all Americans get insurance and making private insurance obsolete.
While Jayapal conceded Medicare for All will be a long-term effort, she said she is pushing "very hard" for "foundational" pieces of the legislation to be included in the next reconciliation bill Democrats are expected to pass later this year, including provisions lowering the Medicare eligibility age, establishing a public option, allowing the government to negotiate the prices of drugs covered by Medicare.
Jayapal said the need for her proposal is underscored by the COVID-19 pandemic, which triggered record-high layoffs and insurance losses for millions of Americans who get coverage through work.
The pandemic has inspired more Democrats to sign on to the bill, Japayal said, including Energy & Commerce Committee Chairman Frank Pallone (D-N.J.) and Education & Labor Chairman Bobby Scott (D-Va.) who have both vowed to hold hearings on the proposal this year.
"This devastating public health crisis has only underscored how broken our for-profit healthcare system is and how it leaves millions behind," Jayapal said.
About 30 million people were uninsured before the pandemic started, with many citing the high cost of premiums as the main reason.
Medicare for All and more moderate proposals like the public option are widely opposed by the health industry.
Medicare for All would eliminate the need for private insurance and hospitals argue both proposals would likely lead to lower rates providers.
The industry has launched massive campaigns against Medicare for All and other proposals in recent years as support for them grows among the public and members of Congress.
Still, Democrats are far from united on Medicare for All and the debate is likely to heat up this year when hearings on the proposal begin.
President Joe Biden, who debated the merits of Medicare for All during the Democratic primary, supports a public option run by the government that competes with private insurance plans.
A public option was included in early versions of the ACA but cut out after facing opposition from moderate Democrats. Now most moderate Democrats support a public option and some view Medicare for All as too unrealistic.
Several Democratic lawmakers have introduced different versions of public option bills over the past several years. Debbie Dingell (D-Mich.) indicated she's not interested in compromising with Democrats and passing a public option this year.
"I am really pushing for Medicare for All, not just a public option that will take care of some people," Dingell said.