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Pramila Jayapal Frustrated by Democrats Using Medicare for All Label to Push Plans 'That Are Not Medicare for All'

"Any policy that uses the M4ALL name must embody these principles, not undermine them."

Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.) during a press conference on student debt cancellation in Washington, D.C. (Photo: Michael Brochstein/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)

Rep. Pramila Jayapal on Tuesday voiced her frustration with fellow Democrats who are attaching the Medicare for All label to proposals that fall well short of the core principles and goals of single-payer healthcare.

"The Medicare for All movement is powerful because grassroots members have fought for years to achieve true universal healthcare and remove the profit-motive from the system."
—Rep. Pramila Jayapal

"I appreciate the robust healthcare debate my Democratic colleagues have brought to the table," Jayapal tweeted. "But as lead sponsor of Medicare for All [in the House], I find it misleading when my fellow Democrats use the M4A name to describe proposals that are not Medicare for All."

Though Jayapal did not mention Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) by name, the Washington Democrat's criticism appears to have been directed at Harris's newly released healthcare plan, which single-payer advocates have criticized as Medicare for All in name only.

Jayapal outlined the fundamental components of a Medicare for All system and said any proposal that does not live up to those standards "is not Medicare for All."

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"The Medicare for All movement is powerful because grassroots members have fought for years to achieve true universal healthcare and remove the profit-motive from the system," wrote the Washington Democrat. "Any policy that uses the M4ALL name must embody these principles, not undermine them."

As Common Dreams reported Monday, Harris's plan would take effect after a 10-year transition period and preserve a major role for private health insurance.

"If you want stability in the healthcare system, if you want a system which gives you freedom of choice with regard to a doctor or a hospital, the answer is to get rid of the profiteering of the drug companies and the insurance companies."
—Sen. Bernie Sanders

By contrast, Jayapal's bill—which has 117 co-sponsors in the House—would virtually eliminate private insurance and enroll everyone in the U.S. into an expanded Medicare program in two years.

Writing for Splinter in February, Tim Faust, a Medicare for All advocate and health policy expert, called Jayapal's legislation "astonishingly strong" and said it "should become the baseline for federal legislation toward single-payer healthcare."

Jayapal's tweets came just ahead of Tuesday night's Democratic presidential debate, in which Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) defended Medicare for All against incrementalist alternatives offered by centrist Democrats vying for the nomination.

South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg touted a public option plan he described as "Medicare for All who want it," while Beto O'Rourke pushed his "Medicare for America" plan.

Sanders, the lead sponsor of the Medicare for All Act of 2019 in the Senate, countered that anything short of a single-payer, Medicare for All plan will not be enough to transform America's fundamentally dysfunctional system.

"If you want stability in the healthcare system, if you want a system which gives you freedom of choice with regard to a doctor or a hospital, which is a system which will not bankrupt you," said Sanders, "the answer is to get rid of the profiteering of the drug companies and the insurance companies [and] move to Medicare for All."

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