We’re joined by Stephanie Kang, Rep. Pramila Jayapal’s Health Policy Director, to discuss the upcoming 2021 Medicare for All bill, which will be shortly reintroduced in Congress. Kang also discusses changes made to the membership rules of the Progressive Caucus, and the most effective way to lobby your legislator during COVID!
We are excited to speak with Stephanie Kang, DrPH, MS, the Health Policy Director from the office of Representative Pramila Jayapal. Kang is one of the nation’s leading experts on Medicare for All and has been instrumental in Representative Jayapal’s work as chief author to reintroduce the Medicare for All Act.
The upcoming Medicare for All Act is the most comprehensive healthcare program proposed in decades. With the principles of the late Representative John Conyers’s H.R.676 as a foundation, Representative Jayapal’s bill does away with the unfair, fragmented, and inefficient system we have now and makes sure that every American resident has guaranteed access to full healthcare, with all medically necessary services covered, while lowering costs by eliminating all the waste from a profit-driven, inefficient system.
The current Medicare system has some major gaps. The upcoming Medicare for All Act would expand and improve coverage; eliminate out of pocket costs; and add dental, vision, reproductive care, and long-term care support for the elderly and disabled people. Medicare would be allowed to negotiate drug prices. Kang stated that the bill is “battle ready,” a comprehensive, 125 blueprint ready for implementation.
While offering comprehensive benefits to every American resident, countless studies show that Medicare for All will actually cost less, by cutting administrative waste, profits to shareholders, and lobbying and marketing expenses; allowing negotiation of drug prices; and streamlining the inefficiencies of our current system.
Nearly 90% of Democrats polled in April 2020 supported Medicare for All, but currently only about half of the Democratic members in the House support the bill. Kang discussed some of the objections she has heard from Democratic lawmakers who are reluctant to sign on to the bill, including the issues of choice and finance.
Choice in our current system usually means having the choice to keep your employer-provided plan if you would prefer. While opponents often claim that Americans like their employer-provided coverage and would not want it to change, that argument seems to be losing steam as millions of Americans lose their jobs and insurance in the pandemic-related downturn. The choice that actually matters – choice of healthcare providers, clinics, and hospitals – is hampered by insurance companies’ narrow networks, a cost cutting measure that prevents countless Americans from getting the care they need from the provider they want. Medicare for All is the only system that has no networks and allows patients to choose their providers. With no out-of-pocket costs, Medicare for All also allows patients to choose to seek medical care when they need it, not when they can afford it.
Kang also discussed what the transition to Medicare for All would look like. First, no American would go without coverage during the transition period. In the first year of the program, all Americans under 18 and over 55 would be transitioned into coverage under Medicare for All. In the second year, all other age groups would follow. In the meantime, there would be a public option available for the second group, in case private insurance companies decide to stop offering plans or collapse. Kang explained that because everyone would be eligible, the administrative setup of the new system will be much simpler than the current system, and should be able to be phased in quickly.
The Medicare for All Act will be re-introduced this spring, and Rep. Jayapal is already collecting an impressive list of co-authors for the legislation. Is your member of Congress on the bill yet? Keep up the calls. From her vantage point in the U.S. Congress, Kang believes it’s not a matter of if Medicare for All happens, it’s a matter of when. Do your part to make sure Members of Congress know there is a large and continually growing grassroots demand for Medicare for All.
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