On Tuesday, January 29, 2019, more than 500 single payer supporters, both individuals and organizations, sent a letter to Congresswoman Jayapal urging her to make three improvements to the health bill she plans to introduce within the next two weeks. Read the letter and list of signers here.
Although the signers have not seen the actual text of the legislation, conversations with the few people who have and with Congressional staff indicate that there are at least three serious flaws. One is the inclusion of for-profit health facilities in the system. The second is an unnecessarily long transition period which excludes those ages 20 to 54, 47% of the population, for two years. And the third is a failure to explicitly include immigrants in the national system.
Single payer supporters recognize that legislation becomes weaker as it goes through the process in Congress, and therefore stress that the bill must be as strong as possible from the beginning. The top two concerns are deviations from the gold standard bill, the former HR 676 , which banned for-profit facilities, buying them out using a fifteen-year bond, and would include everyone on the first day of the new system.
Supporters are also concerned that the bill may be weakened before it is introduced as members of Congress are asked to endorse it before it is final. They recall the experience with Senator Sanders’ health bill in September, 2017, when concessions were made to appease other Senators. The Sanders bill ended up being compromised to the extent that health policy experts did not consider it to be a single payer system.
Now that there is a growing demand for National Improved Medicare for All (NIMA), Democrats are taking that demand more seriously and are announcing their support in public. Most of the Democratic Party presidential candidates are including NIMA in their platform. The real test is what members of Congress and presidential candidates mean when they say Medicare for All. Some members of Congress have introduced bills that use Medicare for All language but would only provide Medicare for some.
We are entering a critical period in the struggle to win National Improved Medicare for All. It will require a popular movement that is independent of the major political parties, clear about its demands and unwilling to compromise when the cost of doing so is human lives to win. This is the time to mobilize for a universal, publicly-financed healthcare system that provides the same high quality, comprehensive care to everyone.