Sens. Chris Murphy and Jeff Merkley at the introduction of their Medicare buy in bill last year.

Washington – A sweeping Medicare for All proposal was given its first public hearing Tuesday, but isn’t likely to become law anytime soon.

Still, the hearing before the House Rules Committee allowed progressive House Democrats to promote a controversial proposal that has split their party – as well as Connecticut’s all-Democratic congressional delegation.

Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., and Rep. Jahana Hayes, D-5th District, are co-sponsors of Medicare-for-All plans that would replace private insurance and  Medicare and Medicaid with a universal, “single-payer”  health plan for all Americans that is run by the federal government and most likely paid for through new taxes on individuals and businesses.

Other members of Connecticut’s congressional delegation support more modest changes, mostly Medicare “buy in” plans that would allow Americans to purchase coverage in a health care plan modeled after the one that covers those who are 65 and older.

Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-3rd District, for instance, plans to reintroduce a bill Wednesday that would automatically enroll Americans who are uninsured or do not have employer-sponsored insurance—including those who purchase coverage on the individual market—into a “Medicare for America” plan. Unlike traditional Medicare, DeLauro’s plan would offer full coverage for prescription drugs, dental, vision, and hearing services.

Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., also plans to reintroduce his Medicare buy in plan on Wednesday.

U.S. Rep. Rosa DeLauro Thomas Breen / New Haven Independent

Murphy’s plan, co-sponsored by Sen. Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., would give people who qualify for Affordable Care Act subsidies the option to purchase a new Medicare “Part E” plan. It would use the same network of doctors and hospitals who now serve Medicare patients, but would include other non-elderly medical services, including pediatrics and maternity.

Neither DeLauro’s or Murphy’s bills would have a big impact on the private health insurance marketplace, nor would they change Medicaid or traditional Medicare.

But others are seeking a much bigger overhaul of the nation’s health care system, saying a piecemeal approach won’t work.

“We are involved in a great struggle not unlike, to be honest with you, the struggles of the labor movement, the struggles of the civil rights movement, the struggles of the women’s movement, the struggles of the gay community, the struggles of the environmental movement,” said Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., the chief sponsor of a Medicare for All plan in the Senate. “This is what we’re about.”

Blumenthal is a co-sponsor of Sanders’ bill, as are several of the leading contenders for the 2020 Democratic nomination for the White House, including Sens. Kamala Harris, Cory Booker, Kirsten Gillibrand and Elizabeth Warren.

However, former Vice President Joe Biden, another Democrat running for the White House, on Monday said he supported giving Americans an option to buy into a Medicare-based insurance plan.

Sen. Bernie Sanders

At Tuesday’s Rules Committee hearing on the House Medicare for All proposal, sponsored by Rep. Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash., and supported by Jahana Hayes and more than 90 other House Democrats,  Republicans panned the plan as too expensive and likely to erode the quality of health care in the nation.

The top Republican on the committee, Rep. Tom Cole, R-Okla., called the proposal a “radical bill” and said its sponsors “have not told us how much this massive new program would cost, who would pay for it, and how much taxes would have to go up” to cover the program’s costs.

The Congressional Budget Office plans to release a report Wednesday on the costs of single-payer coverage. A Republican witness at the hearing predicted it would cost between $32 trillion and $39 trillion.

Meanwhile, witnesses invited to testify by Democrats told compelling stories about the shortfalls of the current system, in which 173 million Americans are dependent on employer-based coverage and the cost of medicine is out of reach for many of the uninsured.

Ady Barkan, a health care activist dying of ALS, told of raising money to pay for medical care through a “GoFundMe” page.

“We should have a national safety net to help us when we fall,” Barkan said through the aid of a computer because he can no longer speak.

Farzon Nahvi, an emergency room physician in New York, told of patients who had to forego critically needed care, including one with appendicitis, because they could not afford it.

“If you ask any ER doctor, nurse, or janitor in this country, you will hear countless stories of patients who came to seek medical care only to walk out in the middle of their treatment,” Nahvi said. “The reality for many people in this country is that seeking medical care means weighing their health against their wallet.”

The bill considered in the House Rules Committee Tuesday is not expected to advance and many never even receive a hearing in the congressional committees that oversee Medicare.

Even if the measure were to advance through the House, the legislation would have virtually no chance of prevailing in the Republican-controlled Senate.

But the issue of health care is important to voters, polls show, and will continue to be a top priority among Democrats, especially since the future of the Affordable Care Act is uncertain.

On Wednesday, lawyers will file briefs in a case before the 5th District Court of Appeals in New Orleans that seeks to overturn a lower court ruling that invalidated the ACA.

The Trump administration has joined that lawsuit on the side of those who seek to scrap the ACA and President Donald Trump, appearing at a National Rifle Association conference in Indianapolis last week, repeated his intention to eliminate the health care law.

“The Trump administration’s assault on the American health care system has reached unprecedented levels,” said Murphy at a press conference outside the U.S. Capitol Tuesday.

Murphy said Republicans once vowed to repeal and replace the ACA, but now there’s no talk of providing an alternative.

“They no longer attempt to perpetuate that ruse on the American people,” he said.

Ana has written about politics and policy in Washington, D.C.. for Gannett, Thompson Reuters and UPI. She was a special correspondent for the Miami Herald, and a regular contributor to The New York TImes, Advertising Age and several other publications. She has also worked in broadcast journalism, for CNN and several local NPR stations. She is a graduate of the University of Maryland School of Journalism.

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7 Comments

  1. Medicare-for-All plan requires
    40% cut to reimbursements that are already low. Do these legislators
    expect doctors to stay around and hospitals to survive?

  2. A few thoughts:

    1. How on earth are we going to afford Medicare for all when the program in its current form is projected to lose money in 2026?

    2. For those of us who have paid into this for decades, how fair is it to provide this coverage to non-paying folks?

    3. Given how well the US has managed Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security, how on earth can we expect a massive new entitlement to break even? Hint: we can’t.

    Its all fun and games until we run out of other people’s money to spend. We’re on that glide path.

    1. A few thoughts .1. Can you link me to your post objecting to the increase in military spending for which there was no additional revenue to fund?

      2. If the program is funded by the tax payer then they essentially would be getting what they pay for. How is this unfair?
      3.Where does the federal government “break even”? We are over 20 trillion in debt and we are adding a trillion a year not counting interest all to fund a corporate army that does the bidding of multi-national corporations.We give billions a year in tax breaks to US companies that earn billions in profits and you suddenly cry “no more money” when it comes to healthcare? For the record because of “private insurers” we are spending TWICE as much as the rest of the world and not getting as good of an outcome. Please forward any other insurance company talking points so I can debunk them.

      1. A few other thoughts:

        1. Can you show me in the US Constitution where the right to health care insurance paid by the Government exists? Is it right next to Section 8 that provides for a military and war powers?
        2. If the program is rolled out for people who have not paid into it, how is that fair? Kinda like Obamacare? Is it fair that half the taxpayers pays for the other half?
        3. I agree that the Federal Government doesn’t “Break even.” Not even close. I don’t even disagree with the corporate tax breaks either. That said, Medicare, Social Security, and other health programs consume 60% of the federal budget while military/veteran spending consumes 20%. We are headed on the road to financial ruin and entitlement/healthcare spending leads the parade. The answer for sure is not more Govenment run healthcare and entitlements. See how that works?

  3. DeLauro is a tired politician who should be on display in the Peabody Museum along with the receipt from the lobbyists who have bought her because she no longer can even fake being progressive. As for Murphy, he consistently betrays the trust of his voters aside from his position on the genocide in Yemen and even in that he favors the continued sale of weapons to the homicidal Saudi regime so long as they are stamped “made in Connecticut”. Neither of these people represent anything but their own ambitions and vanity.

  4. Murphy and Blumenthal, Senators from the Insurance Capital of the Country, both support plans to bankrupt the number one Industry in our State. Who do the represent? Certainly not Connecticut! They are both an embarrassment.

    1. You define the health of a human being as an industry? I believe that says it all.

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