Congressman John Conyers on Why Now is the Time for Medicare for All

60 Percent of Americans are in support of a single-payer health care system. This Michigan lawmaker lays out how the country gets there.

by John Conyers
Oct 4 2017, 2:30pm

This is an opinion piece by US Rep. John Conyers, D-Michigan and author of the Expanded and Improved Medicare for All Act

For the last 13 years, I have introduced Medicare for All legislation that would guarantee health care as a right for all Americans. I have persisted despite the numerous politicians and commentators who condemned the idea as "unrealistic" or worse, because I have a moral conviction that health care should be a basic right, and that no American should face bankruptcy or death because they fall ill. Today, fresh off the latest failed Republican attempt to slash health care benefits, Medicare for All is a broadly popular proposal whose time has come.

Early on, our co-sponsors were steady, but nothing to brag about. Over the years, and especially recently, our numbers have improved. Today, 120 Members of Congress -- over 60 percent of the Democratic delegation -- have signed on in support of my bill. My friend and colleague, Senator Bernie Sanders, introduced a Senate version of my bill that has 17 co-sponsors, including big names like Elizabeth Warren, Kamala Harris, Al Franken, Kirsten Gillibrand and Cory Booker. Even one of the most conservative Democrats in the Senate, Joe Manchin, has expressed interest in supporting the bill.

My support for Medicare for All is rooted in both moral and fiscal arguments.

With the Republican healthcare bill hopelessly unpopular across the political spectrum and a majority of Democratic Representatives signing onto my bill for the first time, Medicare for All has more momentum than ever before. This momentum has been hard fought, and we need to be vigilant against attempts at distortion from both health industry lobbyists and politicians in both political parties who benefit from their donations.

So, now I will go through common arguments against Medicare for All, and clarify why they're wrong.

"We can't afford Medicare for All; it's too expensive."

  • In reality Medicare for All is the most efficient system we could have. Medicare only utilizes 2 percent of operating expenses for administrative costs, while private insurance utilizes a whopping 17 percent.
  • America ranks near the bottom of the list of developed countries in value received for healthcare spending. We pay double the percentage of our GDP on healthcare as other similar nations.
  • The Senate just passed a $700 billion increase to the military's budget without anyone batting an eye or asking "how are we going to pay for it." If we can afford war, we can afford healthcare.

"Medicare for All might be good policy, but it isn't popular enough to work in America"

  • A Pew Research poll found that 60 percent of Americans support Medicare for All.
  • A poll done by The Economist shows that 46 percent of Republicans support single-payer healthcare while only 38 percent are opposed. This includes 40 percent of self-identified Donald Trump supporters.

READ MORE: Here's How You Can Join Bernie Sanders' Fight for Single Payer Health Care

"Medicare for All will hurt business and economic innovation"

Employer-based health coverage places enormous burdens on both companies and workers. Workers are afraid to change jobs or leave their job to start a business of their own for fear of losing their health care. Employers are reluctant to hire new workers in order to keep benefits costs down.

  • A 2014 Harris poll found that 90 percent of CFOs agree that they could invest more in their businesses if they weren't burdened with being the main provider of health care.
  • In that same poll, 93% of respondents agree that "the high cost of healthcare in the U.S. gives foreign companies a competitive advantage."

Leaving aside all the great reasons above, Medicare for All is simply the morally right position to support. As residents of the wealthiest nation in the history of the world, how can we possibly deny healthcare to our most vulnerable while we spend billions on new weapons and tax cuts for the wealthiest citizens? Medicare for All is an idea that's time has come, and I look forward to fighting alongside all of you as we continue this important moral struggle.

Regardless of how you feel about the issue of Medicare for All, now is the time to reach out to your elected officials and let them know your thoughts on America's health care future one way or another. Here's how you can find out the contact information for your congressional representative and US senators— to make sure your voice is heard where it matters.