More than 100 House Democrats Unveil Medicare-for-All Plan
Measure would nearly eliminate employer-sponsored health coverage
By Stephen Miller, CEBS March 4, 2019
Democrats unveiled a new Medicare for All Act of 2019 on Feb. 27, with 107 initial House co-sponsors. The bill would provide government--funded health insurance to every American and only allow employers to sponsor supplemental health care plans. While the measure has slim chance of being enacted given the Republican-controlled Senate and opposition by President Donald Trump, it is expected to be a major point of contention during the 2020 congressional and presidential elections. Here is a roundup of coverage on Medicare for All by SHRM Online and other media sources.
A Sweeping Medicare-for-All Bill—Here's What's in It
The Medicare for All proposal would:
- Create a single-payer, government-funded health care program within two years, eliminating the age 65 threshold for Medicare eligibility.
- Not charge beneficiaries co-pays, premiums or deductibles.
- Provide universal coverage for long-term care for people with disabilities.
The legislation does not include methods to pay for the health care overhaul. The measure's sponsors have called for higher taxes on the wealthy or contributions from employers as potential ways to fund it.
A Complete Transformation of Health Care
The legislation's most contentious provision would end private health insurance and replace it with a government system. "We mean a complete transformation of our health care system, we mean a system where there are no private insurance companies that provide these core comprehensive benefits that will be covered through the government," said lead co-sponsor Rep. Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash. The House Budget Committee and Rules Committee plans to hold hearings on the legislation.
By introducing a concrete new bill, holding hearings on its features and producing more detailed reports on its costs and benefits, progressives are hoping to build a party consensus around their version and work out any policy kinks before the next Democratic president takes office.
Bill Would Largely End Private Health Insurance
The bill, if enacted, would move America to a virtual single-payer system, as in the U.K. and Canada. Private policies would largely be eliminated, as the bill makes it "unlawful" for a private health insurer "to sell health insurance coverage that duplicates the benefits provided under this Act." The bill also prohibits employers from doing the same.
The coverage would include all primary, dental, vision, maternity and newborn care, prescription drugs, mental health services and other care. It would also cover women's reproductive health services including abortion.
America's Health Insurance Plans, an advocacy group for the private health insurance industry, said the vast majority of Americans are happy with their coverage as it is.
Specter of Medicare for All vs. Employer Benefits
If the Democrats have a majority in Congress in 2020 and take the presidency, and if the new president is a single-payer proponent, "then we're going to have a big conversation about the employer-based system," said Christopher Condeluci, principal and sole shareholder at CC Law & Policy in Washington, D.C., and former tax and benefits counsel to the U.S. Senate Finance Committee. "It's coming, so [employers] should prepare for it, should the stars align in that way."
Medicare for All is now favored by many of the Democratic Party's potential 2020 presidential candidates. Progressives who champion a single-payer solution say that poll numbers are on their side. A survey by the nonprofit Kaiser Family Foundation, a health care policy think tank, showed that more than half of adults in the U.S.—53 percent—somewhat or strongly favor a single-payer health care plan. The share rises to 57 percent when the program is called "Medicare for All." However, 47 percent believed they would be able to keep their current health insurance arrangement under a single-payer system, which would not be the case.