The Better Care Reconciliation Act, which was recently introduced in the Senate by Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, has catastrophic implications for the future of healthcare in the United States. This plan would increase the number of uninsured Americans by 22 million and would abate the Affordable Care Act’s Medicaid expansion program. If passed, this bill would put hundreds of thousands of lives at stake and make health coverage unattainable for millions. Moreover, this reprehensible piece of legislation would grant $700 billion in tax cuts with 45 percent of savings going to the top 1 percent, all at the expense of the healthcare of the average American.
While the Affordable Care Act is undoubtedly superior to all of the recent Republican healthcare legislation, including the recently introduced BCRA, it still possesses its own set of pitfalls. For example, in the first quarter of 2017, 11.3 percent of American adults remained without health insurance. While the Affordable Care Act is a far superior piece of legislation to any of the Republican healthcare bills that were recently introduced, the ACA was designed as the foundation of the venture to achieve universal health coverage – not the final destination. After the ACA was passed in 2010, Rep. Keith Ellison remarked, “For me, this legislation represents progress toward universal health care for all Americans.”
However, there is an alternative that would achieve universal coverage – and is more in reach than most would think. Under a Medicare-for-all, single-payer system, the United States would finally join practically every other Western, industrialized nation in the world in acknowledging and guaranteeing health care as a fundamental human right. To take advantage of the BCRA and previous pieces of GOP health coverage legislation’s immense unpopularity with the American people, Democrats would be sensible to offer an audacious alternative to the Republican Party’s regressive and detrimental plan. The solution is simple: the Democrats must unite around single-payer healthcare.
Contrary to Medicare-for-all’s popular mischaracterization by the right as some sort of socialist fantasy, it has already found its way into the mainstream political discourse as a result of many progressives, but mostly due to Bernie Sanders’ 2016 presidential candidacy. Additionally, a majority of Americans, 53 percent, favor a single-payer healthcare system in which all Americans would receive their health coverage from a single government plan.
As a result of the Republicans pushing backward healthcare policies and the increased focus on healthcare they engender, Democrats and progressives are perceiving that this is the time to pursue Medicare-for-all and single-payer policies. Rep. John Conyers introduced a Medicare-for-all bill in the House which currently has 114 cosponsors, which includes a majority of House Democrats. At a “Care not Cuts” rally on July 9th, Sen. Bernie Sanders announced that he is preparing to introduce a Medicare-for-all bill in the Senate following the defeat of the disastrous Republican healthcare bill. Furthermore, a bill that would provide a single-payer healthcare system recently advanced through the California State Senate.
With popular supports and legislative initiatives by progressive legislators, Medicare-for-all is here to stay in our political discourse. However, for Medicare-for-all to become reality, Democrats need to perceive single-payer healthcare as inevitable, not as an unattainable ideal.