As Medicare for All advocates gear up for what promises to be a long and brutal fight against the powerful industry interests and corporate Democrats committed to upholding the for-profit status quo, critics accused Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) of siding with the latter camp after he insisted in an interview on Sunday that "there are lots of different routes" to a universal healthcare system and refused to endorse single-payer.
"Take this as a 'No' on single-payer, Medicare for All from Chuck Schumer, who represents one of the most Democratic states in the country,"
—Waleed Shahid, Justice Democrats
Pressed by MSNBC's Chuck Todd on whether he thinks it's time for Democrats to unify around Medicare for All—which has the backing of 84 percent of Democratic voters—Schumer dodged, saying, "Look, Democrats are for universal access to healthcare, from one end of the party to the other."
"We want more people covered, everyone covered; we want better healthcare at a lower cost. People have different views as to how to get there. Many are for Medicare for All, some are for Medicare buy-in, some are Medicare over 55, some are Medicaid buy-in, some are public option," Schumer added. "I'm going to support a plan that can pass, and that can provide the best, cheapest healthcare for all Americans."
Schumer balks at Medicare-for-all: "I'm going to support a plan that can pass, and that can provide the best, cheapest health care for all Americans." pic.twitter.com/oK0x15v21J
— Matt Shuham (@mattshuham) December 16, 2018
Single-payer advocates were quick to note in response to Schumer's interview that the "best, cheapest" way to provide healthcare for every American—as demonstrated by study after study—is Sen. Bernie Sanders' (I-Vt.) Medicare for All plan, which was co-sponsored by 16 Senate Democrats when it was reintroduced last year.
"Does Chuck know that free is the cheapest?" asked The Intercept's Michael Whitney, alluding to the fact that Sanders' Medicare for All plan would eliminate premiums, co-pays, and deductibles while providing comprehensive coverage to every American.
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While Schumer was careful to not explicitly denounce Medicare for All, critics interpreted his remarks as confirmation that he has no plans to join the rapidly growing number of congressional Democrats backing single-payer over incremental improvements to America's for-profit system, which has left tens of millions of Americans without insurance.
"Take this as a 'No' on single-payer, Medicare for All from Chuck Schumer, who represents one of the most Democratic states in the country," Waleed Shahid, communications director for Justice Democrats, wrote on Twitter following Schumer's MSNBC appearance. "That's not the kind of moral leadership we need in this moment."
Take this as a “No” on single-payer, Medicare for All from Chuck Schumer who represents one of the most Democratic states in the country. https://t.co/t56tOf5GqF
— Waleed Shahid (@_waleedshahid) December 16, 2018
Schumer's refusal to back Medicare for All came just days after a federal judge deemed the Affordable Care Act unconstitutional—a ruling many characterized as the latest sign that it's time for the U.S. to move beyond its overly complex, market-based status quo to a straightforward and popular system that guarantees healthcare to all as a right.
"This is an outrageous, disastrous decision that threatens the healthcare and lives of millions of people. It must be overturned," Sen. Sanders wrote on Twitter. "We must move forward to make healthcare a right for every American."
Though Schumer insisted that he will only support a healthcare "plan that can pass," there is no evidence that any of the non-Medicare for All alternatives he mentioned have a better chance of passing the Republican-controlled Senate than Sanders' single-payer plan.
In the House, meanwhile, a majority of the Democratic caucus supports single-payer, and incoming Congressional Progressive Caucus co-chair Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.) has said she plans to push for a vote on Medicare for All legislation early in the next Congress.