UPDATE 8/20/19: I originally posted this in late June. Since then, there have been several important developments: Joe Biden and Kamala Harris have formally rolled out their own official healthcare overhaul plans, with Harris splitting off from Bernie Sanders' fully-mandatory "Medicare for All" bill to her own variant, which keeps the name but has similarities to "Medicare for America". Also, Eric Swalwell and John Hickenlooper have dropped out (ok, not every development was major).
I've updated the post to reflect these changes, while also updating the table graphic, which I've also simplified by removing Swalwell, Hickenlooper and most of the other bottom-rung candidates. I'm keeping everyone who's qualified for the September/October debates as of this writing, plus Tulsi Gabbard, Jay Inslee and Tom Steyer, each of whom is partly qualified.
I've written many times before about how polling on the issue of "Medicare for All" has consistently proven that many Americans are confused about what the phrase actually means.
While a majority of the country keeps saying they want "Medicare for All", poll after poll has shown that a huge chunk of those who say so think it means "Medicare for All Who Want It"...that is, they think it refers to a Public Option, where it's up to them whether their major medical coverage would be public or private. This is true even among Democrats, who obviously support the concept in higher numbers than Republicans or Independents.
Sen. Bernie Sanders changes how Medicare-for-all plan treats union contracts in face of opposition by organized labor
Sen. Bernie Sanders announced a key change to his Medicare-for-all insurance plan Wednesday, a move meant to assuage fears on the part of organized labor, whose support is being heatedly sought by all of the candidates for the Democratic presidential nomination.
Both evenings of the Detroit Democratic Debates earlier this week started off with half-hour segments on healthcare policy. I meant to do write-ups about both of them but for one reason or another never got around to it until now. Tons of other healthcare wonks have already written their own think pieces by now, so I'm not going to go back and rehash the whole thing at this point.
HOWEVER, there's one quote which made my jaw drop, and it doesn't come from any of the Big Four (Biden, Warren, Harris or Sanders). It comes from Hawaii Representative Tulsi Gabbard...and it didn't even come during the debate itself, but afterwards in the "Spin Room" (they actually call it that) with Anderson Cooper.
Harris’s rollout Monday was met with swift criticism from both the Biden camp, which called it “A Bernie Sanders-lite Medicare for All,” and the Sanders camp, which insists Harris “can’t call [her] plan Medicare for All.”
In saying this, the Sanders campaign is effectively trying to lay a copyright claim to Medicare-for-all, as if it, and only it, can define what it means. The reality is far less clear — and depending on your perspective, it could be Harris’s proposal that is more justified in claiming the Medicare-for-all branding.
I'm not going to overquote my own piece, but this has led to some backlash against me, so for the record:
(IMPORTANT: As my friend Shawn Pierce keeps pointing out, the phrase "Medicare for All" has two very different meanings...one is the brand "Medicare for All", which simply refers to any healthcare plan which ensures 100% universal, comprehensive healthcare coverage for everyone; the other is the specific bills introduced by Sen. Bernie Sanders and/or Rep. Pramila Jayapal, which would indeed completely eliminate private major medical insurance for 100% of the population as well as completely eliminating all out-of-pocket costs in favor of 100% federal public funding).
For months now, California Senator and Presidential candidate Kamala Harris has repeatedly struggled with how to address her support of Bernie Sanders' 100% mandatory, $0 out-of-pocket-cost, 100% comprehensive "pure" single payer "Medicare for All" healthcare bill.
If I could only ask one question of the 20-odd candidates vying for the Democratic nomination for President at the next debate coming up right here in Detroit, Michigan, here's how I would word it. I've customized it for each of the five major candidates (apologies to the rest of them):
Preface to each of the candidates:
"Earlier this month, oral arguments were heard by the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals over a lawsuit against the Affordable Care Act filed by 20 Republican Attorneys General and fully supported by the Trump Administration.
"If the plaintiffs are successful and the ACA is struck down entirely, up to 20 million Americans would find themselves without healthcare coverage and tens of millions more with pre-existing conditions would lose critical protections, while states would lose hundreds of millions, or even billions of federal funding.
"Every Democratic candidate has come out in favor of significantly expanding publicly-funded healthcare coverage to some degree or another. Some want to build upon the Affordable Care Act. Some want to add a public option. Some want guaranteed universal coverage, and some are demanding universal single payer healthcare for everyone in the United States.
I'm happy to report that our panel did indeed make the final cut, and will be happening this Friday, July 12th:
FIX THE DAMN HEALTHCARE: SORTING OUT ACA 2.0, MFA, MED4AM AND MORE!
Friday, Jul. 12 4:30 PM, Room: 118C
The healthcare landscape is confusing and exciting in 2019. Reining in Big Pharma, strengthening the ACA, adding public options, “Medicare for America” or “Medicare for All”… the alphabet soup of plans can be confusing. Can improvements be implemented before 2021 at the federal level or is it all up to the states? And what about the latest lawsuit looming over everything? We’ll go beyond the slogans and into the details: How are the proposals similar and different, and what do patients, caregivers and other invested parties think.
...voters were only dimly aware of candidates’ and elected officials’ health proposals.
...These voters are not tuned into the details — or even the broad outlines — of the health policy debates going on in Washington and the campaign, even though they say health care will be at least somewhat important to their vote.
Many had never heard the term “Medicare for all”...
(update: the video of the town hall has been removed from YouTube for whatever reason, but I have the transcript below anyway)
Last night on the Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell, Democratic U.S. Senator and Presidential candidate Kamala Harris took her fourth (or fifth) shot at explaining exactly where she stands on Medicare for All and the elimination of private primary heatlh insurance.
As I've noted (mostly on Twitter...I just checked and it looks like I haven't written much about it on the site aside from a quick mention here), Harris has struggled to explain her position in several town hall appearances; she'll boldly stated that she supports "Medicare for All", but then stumbles when it comes to the "elimination of private insurance" issue.
OK, this probably won't be the most exciting Congressional hearing in the world, but it's a pretty important one both historically and for practical purposes. Any major healthcare reform bill will have to first be run through the Congressional Budget Office's scoring process...and before the CBO can do that, they first have to lay out the ground rules, which they did earlier this month.
Anyway, you can watch the hearings above; here's the details...which are pretty simple: Three CBO wonks will be testifying and questioned.
Key Design Components and Considerations for Establishing a Single-Payer Health Care System
It's important to note that while this report came from the CBO, it is not a budget analysis of either the House or Senate MFA bills; it instead lays out the structural components which would be required to be in place in order to put such a system together and, I presume, in order to run such a budget analysis.
I'm swamped today between the rollouts of both the Choose Medicare Act and the revised Medicare for America Act as well as this new CBO report, so for the moment I'll just repost the summary and link to the report itself, along with a few notes as I'm able to add them:
Regular readers know that I'm a strong supporter of going with the "Medicare for America"-style approach to achieving universal heatlhcare coverage as opposed to the "Medicare for All" proposal. Regardless, this is still an historic moment in U.S. history:
Chairman McGovern, Congresswoman Jayapal, and Congresswoman Dingell Announce Historic Rules Committee Hearing on the Medicare for All Act
WASHINGTON, DC — Rules Committee Chairman James P. McGovern (D-MA), Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal (D-WA), and Congresswoman Debbie Dingell (D-MI) announced today that the House Rules Committee will hold an original jurisdiction hearing on the Medicare for All Act of 2019 on Tuesday, April 30th at 10am ET in H-313, The Capitol. It marks the first time Congress has ever held a hearing on Medicare for All. Witnesses will be announced later this week.