Rep. Pramila Jayapal, author of gold-standard Medicare for All legislation in the House, took centrist 2020 Democratic presidential candidates to task Wednesday for parroting Republican Party and insurance industry talking points in their attacks on single-payer healthcare.
"It is very frustrating to have your own party making the arguments of Republicans and insurance companies," Jayapal, co-chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, said in an interview with The American Prospect's David Dayen.
"Instead of saying, 'Wow, Medicare for All costs too much, how are you going to pay for it,' the question to every candidate should be, 'What is your plan to bring down healthcare costs over the next ten years?'"
—Rep. Pramila Jayapal
The Washington Democrat said some members of her party who are vying for the presidential nomination are not being "accurate in their representations" of Medicare for All.
Jayapal didn't name names, but the interview comes two weeks after South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg, former Vice President Joe Biden, and Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) each went on the offensive against Medicare for All during the 2020 Democratic presidential debate in Ohio.
The attacks on Medicare for All that have been particularly misleading, said Jayapal, are those that focus on the plan's supposedly exorbitant cost while ignoring the price tags of the incremental alternatives offered by Biden and Buttigieg.
"It is absolutely absurd to subject Medicare for All to a different standard of scrutiny," Jayapal told the Prospect. "Instead of saying, 'Wow, Medicare for All costs too much, how are you going to pay for it,' the question to every candidate should be, 'What is your plan to bring down healthcare costs over the next ten years? And what is your plan to universally cover everybody, because none of the other plans do that.'"
Jayapal added that the debate about whether Medicare for All would raise taxes on the middle class is a "red herring" that distracts from the goal of guaranteeing comprehensive healthcare to all at a lower overall cost.
"To criticize a plan that is in-depth and thoughtful, and actually addresses the very issues we need to address, and has the support of enormous numbers of Americans, is a big mistake," said Jayapal.
The questions every candidate should have to answer are: What is your plan to bring down health care costs over the next ten years? And what is your plan to universally cover everyone with the same quality, comprehensive care?
The only plan that does both: Medicare for All.
— Pramila Jayapal (@PramilaJayapal) October 30, 2019
Jayapal's bill, H.R. 1384, has 118 co-sponsors in the House and is in some ways more ambitious than the Senate legislation authored by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), a 2020 Democratic presidential candidate who has placed Medicare for All at the center of his platform.
Under Jayapal's legislation, the U.S. would transition to a single-payer system in two years instead of the four years proposed in Sanders' bill.
Dayen noted that "H.R. 1384 takes direct aim at lowering healthcare costs, more than the Affordable Care Act or even Bernie Sanders' companion bill in the Senate, by setting a global budget for healthcare providers."
"Instead of Medicare paying individually for each service, providers would get a set budget for the year to work within," Dayen wrote. "Bonuses for employees, marketing expenses, and political donations would be strictly disallowed, and special funds for new equipment or managing an epidemic would be segregated. Hospitals would have to manage costs better, perhaps by reducing re-admissions, eliminating unnecessary treatments, purchasing supplies more cheaply, or maybe even cutting salaries for administrators."
Jayapal warned of potentially devastating electoral consequences in the future if the 2020 Democratic nominee defeats President Donald Trump but fails to deliver transformational changes to the for-profit healthcare system.
"For 2024, if we don't have this addressed, and Americans don't see substantial improvements in these broad structural issues, we're not going to win," Jayapal said. "That is what gave rise to Trump. I have said that Trump is both a symptom and a cause. Those entrenched interests that have stopped us from making these structural changes, like with the Affordable Care Act, have to be taken on."