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Support for Medicare for All in Congress Just Got Very Real

The House hit a key metric thanks to the endorsement by Rep. Hakeem Jeffries

by Morgan Baskin
Sep 6 2019, 2:59pm

Just one election cycle ago, the idea of either chamber of Congress passing a single-payer health plan was unthinkable.

That was then.

Now, a simple majority of House Democrats support Medicare for All, according to an analysis by the Washington Post. And it hit that key metric thanks to the endorsement this week by Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-New York).

Jeffries is the 118th member of the House to back the bill, introduced in February, which would install a government-run health system.

“Given the enduring nature of our health care access and affordability crisis, more must be done,” Jeffries, who some Democrats view as a likely successor to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), told the Post.

But despite the support from her caucus, Pelosi has resisted holding a vote on the bill, introduced by Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.). In April, Pelosi said she was “agnostic” on Medicare for All, and expressed doubt that the bill would deliver what it promises.

“Show me how you think you can get there,” Pelosi told the Post at the time. “We all share the value of health care for all Americans — quality, affordable health care for all Americans. What is the path to that? I think it’s the Affordable Care Act, and if that leads to Medicare for All, that may be the path.”

Pelosi was also speaker when Congress approved then-President Obama’s Affordable Care Act, and played a critical role in getting it passed.

Jayapal’s version of Medicare for All varies slightly from the version introduced in the Senate by Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, a 2020 presidential candidate. But both would implement a government-run, national health care system that sets low caps on drug prices and allows consumers to pay next to nothing out of pocket. Both would also eliminate private insurance.

Voters, too, are slowly coming around to the idea.

The majority of Americans support the concept of a national health system, and Kaiser Family Foundation research shows that support increasing when pollsters ask voters specifically about Medicare for All.

RealClear Opinion Research polls show that 82% of Democrats, and about half of Republicans, support the policy.

That’s reflected in this year’s presidential race, too. Two of the three highest-polling Democrats running for president — Sens. Sanders and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) — support Medicare for All.

"We remain the only major country on earth that allows chief executives and stockholders in the health care industry to get incredibly rich, while tens of millions of people suffer because they can't get the health care they need," Sanders wrote in a 2017 New York Times op-ed defending the policy. "This is not what the United States should be about."

Cover: Democratic Caucus Chair Hakeem Jeffries, D-N.Y., addresses the media at the House Democrats' 2019 Issues Conference at the Lansdowne Resort and Spa in Leesburg, Va. on Thursday, April 11, 2019. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call via AP Images)