During each new Congress, Rep. John Conyers from Michigan introduces H.R. 676, known each time as the new “Expanded & Improved Medicare For All Act.” This year, some media reports are acting like it could be passed, if only the Republicans would back it. Rep. Conyers has habitually introduced a Medicare For All Act since the 108th Congress in 2003. Each time Rep. Conyers introduces the legislation, dozens of Democrats co-sponsor the bill. Each time, it fails.
Sometimes, H.R. 676 is referred to subcommittees. This time, the forecasted failure of the bill is boisterously being blamed on the Republicans whom, with their majority in both the Senate and the House, would never allow such a bill to pass. Los Angeles Times reported that H.R. 676 “has no chance of passage by the Republican-controlled Congress,” and most Democrats speaking up on the issue are saying the same thing.
I find it imperative to note that, as the establishment Democrats place the eventual failure of this bill on the Republican’s control of the House and the Senate, they didn’t push with all their might when Democrats had functional control of the House and were the majority party in the Senate. It was the 110th Congress. The bill had 93 co-sponsors in the House. It was sent out to subcommittees. Then, nothing happened. There were extenuating circumstances around the 110th Congress, though. We shouldn’t fault the Democrats too much for the lack of change launched by that Congress; however, a constituent might wonder why the bill sat in a subcommittee gathering dust during one specific window of time when the sky was the limit for Democrats.
During the 111th Congress, Democrats held control of both houses, but during a very powerful period during that Congress, Democrats had absolute legislative control. From September 24, 2009, through February 4, 2010, Democrats would have been virtually unstoppable. There could have been no filibuster powerful enough to stop them. Non-Republicans in the Senate could have stood together to form a three-fifths vote of the Senate for the Medicare for All Act during that session. It was during that window, according to a report in the Akron Beacon Journal, that Obamacare was moved forward by the Senate with 60 votes. Not one of them was by a Republican. Meanwhile, Conyers’ Medicare for All legislation missed an amazing opportunity, shoved aside by the Affordable Care Act.
A Herald Palladium opinion piece claimed that Conyers’ Medicare for All Act has never even been debated, “due to ‘free-market’ ideology and an army of industry lobbyists.”
“All businesses large and small should be demanding this. They would be better able to control costs, making them more competitive in the global market. Hiring decisions would be based on a person’s ability, not on their health care costs. And labor unions could negotiate working conditions and wages rather than what their share of the insurance will be.”
We missed out on legislation that would have expanded the single-payer health insurance program that already covered 55 million people in the United States. All people living in the United States could have been covered by the Medicare for All program and been entitled to a “universal, best quality standard of care.” We would have had coverage for primary care, prescription drugs, emergency care, mental health services, dental services, vision care, medical equipment, and even chiropractic care. We could have chosen our own providers. We would have had no copays, no coinsurance, and no deductibles. It would be paid for through a payroll tax, but even with that the payroll tax, the Medicare for All Act would have resulted in almost every American household netting more money each year between lowered medical costs and the usual credits for low-income workers come tax time.
So, while Democrats can blame Republicans for refusing us a single-payer health insurance, I can’t help but feel irritated that Democrats could have moved forward with virtually the same legislation they are praising today, but they implemented the incredibly complicated and sometimes frustrating Affordable Care Act. Interestingly, though, thanks to Bernie Sanders and the progressive movement, new poll results published in The Hill show that a majority of Americans, including one-quarter of all Republicans, support expanding Medicare to cover all Americans.
Conyers claimed that H.R. 676 would save 5-trillion dollars in ten years compared to the current system by slowing the growth of healthcare costs. Surely, Donald Trump and his Republican Congress could find some better way to spend trillions of dollars. Maybe they could just divvy it up in tax credits among their rich buddies on Wall Street. Or they could save it and boast about how much they improved the national budget. Either way, at least then, we would be able to see the doctors that we want to see.
It’s going to happen eventually. It’s what the people are increasingly demanding. Congress is just delaying the inevitable.
At this point, not much would surprise me in U.S. politics. It’s been turned upside down and inside out. I doubt I’d even be surprised if the party that finally implements a Medicaid for All health insurance program ends up being the GOP… even if just to one-up the Democrats in Congress, stick it to the liberal media, do away with the ACA, and get more Facebook likes than the DNC. If they wanted to be unstoppable, the GOP would shock the world and begin to sign on as co-sponsors of Rep. John Conyers’ Medicare for All Act.
[Featured Image by J. Scott Applewhite/AP Images]