As House Speaker Nancy Pelosi this week unveiled legislation to shore up the Affordable Care Act, Medicare for All supporters made the economic, political, and moral case that Democrats should go all the way for single-payer instead of pushing incremental change.
"The incremental reform that I support is phasing in Medicare for All."
—Sen. Bernie Sanders "Now is not the time for watered-down, incremental measures that will only put a Band-Aid on a broken health care system," National Nurses United (NNU) president Zenei Cortez, RN, said in a statement.
"At a moment when the Trump administration is actively seeking to overturn the entire ACA," Cortez added, "Democrats have an opportunity to show real leadership with the transformative change that will most protect all Americans."
The Partnership for America's Health Care Future—an insurance industry front-group—celebrated Pelosi's plan, but Cortez argued that it is "disappointing and totally inadequate to address the healthcare crisis confronting our country."
#MedicareforAll is the most comprehensive solution. It gets rid of debilitating premiums, deductibles, and copays. It eliminates crippling out-of-pocket expenses, and provides real freedom of choice.
— NationalNursesUnited (@NationalNurses) March 28, 2019
Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), who is expected to unveil an updated version of his Medicare for All legislation within the next few weeks, also declined to support Pelosi's legislation in an interview with MSNBC's Chris Hayes this week.
"The incremental reform that I support is phasing in Medicare for All," said Sanders, who is running for president in 2020.
While Democrats in the Senate this week expressed varying degrees of concern over the idea of ending the for-profit system, Sanders unequivocally called for the elimination of private insurance companies, telling Hayes, "You are not going to be able, in the long run, to have cost-effective, universal healthcare unless you change the system."
"Poll after poll has shown that the majority of Americans favor a Medicare for All, single-payer health care system over a profit-driven health insurance system."
—National Nurses UnitedSanders' economic argument was backed up by Robert Pollin, economics professor at the University of Massachusetts Amherst.
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In a Wall Street Journal op-ed published in print on Friday, Pollin argued that a Medicare for All system could save the U.S. trillions of dollars compared to the current for-profit system by slashing administrative costs and reducing prescription drug prices.
"Taking the cost reductions and expanded coverage into account, we estimated that Medicare for All could operate with an overall budget of $2.93 trillion—nearly 10 percent less than current spending," Pollin wrote, citing a study he authored last year.
Families would also see their overall healthcare costs drop significantly under Medicare, Pollin pointed out.
"Net healthcare spending for middle-income families that now purchase insurance for themselves would fall by fully 14 percent of their income," Pollin wrote. "Add it all up and Medicare for All is actually the cheaper option for good-quality care in the U.S."
According to recent polling data, likely Democratic primary voters prefer ambitious solutions over the kinds of incremental reforms offered by Pelosi and other moderate Democrats.
A Wall Street Journal/NBC News survey published earlier this month found that 55 percent of Democratic primary voters prefer a candidate who "proposes larger-scale policies that cost more and might be harder to pass into law, but could bring major change on these issues."
Forty-two percent said they favor a candidate who "proposes smaller-scale policies."
"Poll after poll has shown that the majority of Americans favor a Medicare for All, single-payer health care system over a profit-driven health insurance system," said Cortez of NNU, which is holding local canvassing operations throughout the nation to build grassroots momentum for Medicare for All.
"National Nurses United, along with our allies, will continue to build the grassroots movement for genuine health care justice and push to pass Medicare for All," Cortez concluded.