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Why Don't All House Dems Back ‘Medicare For All’?

Single Payer, Medicare for All. Core Democratic Value. So why doesn't every Democrat Sign on to H.R. 676?
 Why Don't All House Dems Back ‘Medicare For All’?
Image from: Bernie Sanders Campaign

Last January John Conyers introduced H.R. 676, the Medicare for All Act. He had 50 cosponsors on Day One, mostly progressives, but New Dem Eliot Engel signed on and so did a member of the House Democratic leadership, Jim Clyburn. No other members of the leadership signed on that day-- nor since-- no Nancy Pelosi, no Steny Hoyer, no Joe Crowley, no Ben Ray Lujan. But since then more than a few other New Dems and even Blue Dogs signed on as cosponsors including this past Friday, Blue Dogs Jim Cooper (TN) and Mike Thompson (CA).

I've been vetting a lot of Democratic candidates lately and one question I always ask is about the degree of support they have for single-payer (Medicare For All). I spoke with one guy last week who wanted to be endorsed by Blue America but who said he's unsure about supporting single-payer-- although he's very sure about supporting the NRA and the death penalty.

Another candidate-- one who Blue America is endorsing-- is Matt Coffay, the young man running against far right extremist and Freedom Caucus chieftain Mark Meadows in western North Carolina. Yesterday Matt told us that

”While a majority of Democrats in Congress now support a single-payer system, there are still a handful of holdouts.This is despite the fact that, according to a recent poll, 60% of Americans want Medicare for All, including 75% of Democratic voters. As a member of Congress, I will proudly support HR 676, a Medicare for All bill introduced by John Conyers. This bill would largely eliminate the health insurance industry, guaranteeing medical coverage for all Americans. The vast majority of the tax revenue needed to fund this single-payer system will come from taxing the wealthiest people in this country, including a tax on the trading of stocks and bonds. It's time the rich started paying their fair share to ensure that all Americans have access to quality health care."

No Republicans have co-sponsored H.R. 676. OK, that's expected. But there are a large number of Democratic incumbents who haven't become co-sponsors of H.R. 676 either. Unfortunately, that's expected too-- part of Pelosi's and Wasserman Schultz's idea of a Big Tent that means nothing much at all. Dozens and dozens of incumbents-- the Republican wing of the Democratic Party-- are not onboard with single payer, though over three-quarters of Democratic voters-- and a majority of Americans regardless of party-- are. 


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Conservative Democrats like Kyrsten Sinema (Blue Dog-AZ), Debbie Wasserman Schultz (New Dem-FL), Dan Lipinski (Blue Dog-IL), Charlie Crist (Blue Dog-FL), John Delaney (New Dem-MD),  Jim Himes (New Dem-CT), Donald Norcross (New Dem-NJ) and Josh Gottheimer (Blue Dog-NJ) are part of the problem, not the solution.
 
Demands for a national single-payer health plan dominated town hall meetings during the spring congressional recess, Republican incumbents getting most of the heat. Blue Dogs and New Dems need that heat too. Conyers' bill added 28 new co-sponsors in April and there's still plenty of room for growth among current members. Call your representative and ask him/her to co-sponsor H.R. 676

We decided to ask some of the Democrats running for Congress. Tom Guild is running in the Oklahoma City district represented by anti-healthcare fanatic Steve Russell (OK-05). Russell is backing TrumpCare, Ryan's bill that kicks 24 million people off their health insurance and makes insurance prohibitive for millions of others with pre-existing conditions. Guild offers an alternative vision. He told us he strongly supports the Affordable Care Act and opposes Republican efforts to undermine the ACA.

"However, it has become clear that the GOP won’t give up on their seek and destroy operation to repeal the ACA and replace it with something that would be catastrophic for the American people. HR 676 would provide approximately half a trillion dollars each year in savings on overhead and afford coverage to 26 million Americans who are currently uninsured, providing more coverage, better benefits, and lower costs. It is time to go to a Medicare for all healthcare system and take the undue influence of huge corporations and unconscionable corporate profits out of the equation,  that have been financed by the blood, sweat, and tears of American taxpayers. Insurers and big pharmaceutical companies are making out like children sneaking cookies from the cookie jar while no one is looking. HR 676 would provide better, more widespread, more economical, and more efficient healthcare in America. The time has come to transition from the ACA to universal single payer healthcare for our country. Many countries, like Canada, have successfully developed and implemented single payer healthcare systems. The time has come for the United States to be dragged kicking and screaming into the 21st century. I will sign on as a co-sponsor of HR 676 when I am elected to Congress.”

Doug Applegate is the progressive Democrat who nearly beat Issa last year and will likely finished what he started in 2018. He's eager to co-sponsor Medicare for All. "Other industrialized countries of the world have proven single player healthcare systems far more efficient and far more effective," he told us. "Now an American generation faces a future with a shorter life expectancy than their parents and at twice the cost of other industrialized countries. We must fight to put people ahead of insurance and healthcare profits. To that end, I would proudly stand with Congressman Conyers' bill HR 676."

This was a no-brainer for Dr. David Gill, a 25 year member of Physicians for a National Health Program, running for the IL-13 seat held by Rodney Davis. This morning, fresh off a long stint in the Emergency Room, he told us that he passionately "supports H.R. 676 and would proudly sign on to Rep. Conyers' bill when I arrive in Washington in January, 2019. I actually intend to do much more than simply sign on to the bill; as someone who has practiced medicine for nearly 30 years, my experience will afford me a unique opportunity to be a leader in moving H.R. 676 toward passage and into reality. I intend to speak boldly regarding the flaws in American healthcare financing, and about the many myths and lies advanced by the insurance and pharmaceutical industries about single payer."

These are the kinds of candidates we should support for the 2018 cycle. It isn't enough to just be against Trump. We need men and women in Congress ready and able to fight the long hard battle for a progressive agenda.

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