While Republicans struggle with a last-ditch attempt at moving the country's health care system backward, Democrats are coalescing around an idea whose time has come: expanding single payer, Medicare-style health care to more—if not all—Americans. To get a sense of just how mainstream the idea has become among Democrats, check this out: Max Baucus, the former senator from Montana who spent months and months and months futilely chasing Republican votes for what would be come the Affordable Care Act says, "My personal view is we’ve got to start looking at single-payer. […] I think we should have hearings … We’re getting there. It’s going to happen."
Gee, it would have been nice to have had those hearings seven years ago when Baucus was at the head of one of the committees writing what became Obamacare. We might have actually ended up with that public option in the law, and that might have just made the law so popular and successful that we might not have had to spend the last seven years fighting for its existence. At least the last seven years have told us one thing, and that is Democrats are going to have to move forward on health care reform on their own, and it's only going to happen with vision and with lots and lots of grassroots energy. Right now, that energy is all behind expanding Medicare.
From the relatively moderate Sen. Debbie Stabenow of Michigan, who has a bill to expand the program's eligibility to people at age 55; to Connecticut Sen. Chris Murphy, who has a bill to put Medicare on the Obamacare exchanges; to Sen. Bernie Sanders' Medicare for all proposal, Democrats are moving forward.
Sanders' bill will be introduced Wednesday, with a prominent list of co-sponsors. They include Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, who says "Everything should be on the table—and that's why I'm co-sponsoring Bernie Sanders' Medicare for All bill that will be introduced later this month." In addition, more potential 2020 Democratic presidential hopefuls including Sens. Kamala Harris of California and Cory Booker of New Jersey are on board. So are serious, policy-oriented solid Democrats like Rhode Island's Sheldon Whitehouse and Oregon's Jeff Merkley, who expresses why it's time to take this next step.
"Health care should be a right for every single American, not a privilege reserved for the healthy and the wealthy. […]
Right now, our health care system is incredibly complex, fragmented, and stressful. It would be terrific to have a simple, seamless system where, solely by virtue of living in America, you know that you will get the care you need."
Merkley said the country has made "tremendous strides" in expanding access to health care.
"But many Americans still are rightfully frustrated by the cost and complexity of our current system," he said.
"It's time to simplify health care and lower patients’ costs, and embrace Medicare for All."
Sanders' legislation hasn't been released yet, though the basics have been laid out. There are definitely details that have to be worked out, as transitioning from our current system to getting everyone on Medicare would be a massive undertaking. But Democrats are demonstrating that they are ready to start having that conversation and making those plans in a serious way. They're ready to move forward, to move the nation forward, and to make a strong case to voters in 2018, 2020, and beyond. Meanwhile, Republicans only want to move backward.