When Santa Barbara lawyer-turned-activist Ady Barkan settled in to watch the second round of the Democratic presidential primary debates late last month, he had no idea his story would be part of the heated discussion. Barkan, 35, who has amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, also known as ALS or Lou Gehrig’s disease, watched from his wheelchair as Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren described how he and his family had to raise money online to help pay for roughly $9,000 a month in health care costs not covered by his private health insurance. https://twitter.com/AdyBarkan/status/1156365277749305344
“The basic profit model of an insurance company is taking as much money as you can in premiums and pay out as little as possible in health care coverage,” Warren said. “That is not working for Americans.”
But for Barkan, the moment was not about him. “Elizabeth Warren’s point wasn’t just to mention my name, it was to call attention to the ways our broken health care system is hurting people across the country,” he said in an email interview.
U.S. Rep. Ben Ray Luján announced Tuesday that he supports Medicare-for-all. The Assistant Speaker of the House, the fourth-highest position in Democratic leadership in the chamber, made the announcement as he seeks the Democratic nomination for U.S. Senate. His opponent in the primary, Maggie Toulouse Oliver, supports Medicare-for-all. Luján told NM Political Report between votes on Wednesday that he supports the legislation because it emphasizes “that healthcare is a fundamental right, not a privilege for the few.”
Toulouse Oliver said on Twitter she is glad that Luján “has come on board with the latest issue I’ve supported from Day 1.” Luján signed onto the bill sponsored by Washington Democrat Pramila Jayapal.
The health care debate has Democrats on Capitol Hill and the presidential campaign trail facing renewed pressure to make clear where they stand: Are they for “Medicare for All”? Or will they take up the push to protect the Affordable Care Act? Obamacare advocates have found a powerful ally in House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who in a recent “60 Minutes” appearance said that concentrating on the health law is preferable to Medicare for All. She argued that since the ACA’s “benefits are better” than those of the existing Medicare program, implementing Medicare for All would mean changing major provisions of current Medicare, which covers people 65 and up as well as those with disabilities. This talking point — one Pelosi has used before — seems tailor-made for the party’s establishment.
The first congressional hearing on a “Medicare-for-all” bill in at least a decade took place Tuesday, but without the usual phalanx of T-shirted supporters — or even the presidential candidates — who have been pushing the bill. That’s because the hearing took place not at one of three major committees that oversee health policy in the House, but in the ornate — and comparatively miniature — hearing room of the House Rules Committee. That panel’s primary role is to set the terms for House floor debates, and its hearing room can seat about 50 people in the audience, compared with hundreds in the larger rooms of the Capitol complex’s office buildings. Also, members of the public cannot easily access the room on the third floor of the Capitol as they can the House office buildings across the street. That arrangement was no accident — the Rules Committee is often called the “Speaker’s Committee” because it is so closely aligned with the speaker’s goals and is more heavily populated with members of the majority party than the usual committee breakdowns.
ByElisabeth Rosenthal and Shefali Luthra, Kaiser Health News |
After decades in the political wilderness, “Medicare-for-all” and single-payer health care are suddenly popular. The words appear in political advertisements and are cheered at campaign rallies — even in deep-red states. They are promoted by a growing number of high-profile Democratic candidates, like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez in New York and Rep. Beto O’Rourke in Texas. Republicans are concerned enough that this month President Donald Trump wrote a scathing op-ed essay that portrayed Medicare for all as a threat to older people and to American freedom. It is not that.