Progressive Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN) has taken on the mantle of Medicare-for-all in the House of Representatives.
On Wednesday, Ellison received unanimous consent from his House colleagues to become the lead sponsor of the Expanded and Improved Medicare for All Act — originally introduced by former Rep. John Conyers (D-MI). (Conyers resigned in December in the wake of multiple sexual misconduct and harassment claims from former female staffers.)
The bill, more commonly known as the House version of the Medicare-for-all bill, would guarantee universal health care in the United States (Sen. Bernie Sanders is the lead sponsor of the Senate version). It enjoys support from 121 House Democrats — more than 60 percent of the caucus.
I just received unanimous consent from my colleagues to assume leadership of former Rep. John Conyers' historic single-payer health care bill. Health care is a human right, and Medicare for All is an idea whose time has come. pic.twitter.com/kcmbvZRtud— Rep. Keith Ellison (@keithellison) March 7, 2018
To be clear, it has no chance of going anywhere in the current Republican-controlled Congress. But it’s a signal of the policies Democrats could pursue if they’re able to take back the House in 2018 and, furthermore, a signal that more congressional Democrats are getting behind progressive health care policies.
Ellison, who has been a co-sponsor of the bill, is a well-known progressive politician from Minnesota who currently serves as the vice chair of the Democratic National Committee. The bill is, of course, more of an aspiration at the moment than a real bill — but Ellison is optimistic about its future if Congress turns blue.
“I feel very optimistic because Democrats are running all over this country on a Medicare-for-all platform,” Ellison told Vox. “I think if we win, this is going to be on the table for discussion. If we stand and defend what we believe in, which is health care is a right, we will see ourselves with a Medicare-for-all-style piece of legislation.”
He noted the bill text has not changed from Conyers’s original bill, but added it might in the future.
“We are taking ideas and suggestions to make the bill better, but we won’t do that until after the next election,” he said.
Ellison also got a shoutout from Sanders, the lawmaker most closely associated with Medicare-for-all.
“I am excited to have Keith take the lead in the House on the fight to pass a Medicare-for-all health care system,” Sanders said in a statement. “With his leadership, I know that we will be able to take on the greed of the health insurance and pharmaceutical industries and finally join every other major country in guaranteeing health care as a right, not a privilege.”
What the bill contains
The House Medicare-for-all bill is a sweeping vision to transform the country’s health care system; it would virtually eliminate private medical insurance and force the 150 million people who get insurance through their employer to switch to a new plan. It would also create a universal system that would give every American free health care with no premiums or deductibles.
The bill would also most likely result in the largest tax increase in modern American history, one that would almost certainly hit all segments of the American population. Another bill provision mandates that for-profit hospitals would have to become nonprofit entities or fold.
You can read the full text of the bill here.
As former Vox reporter Jeff Stein laid out in his in-depth explainer this summer, there are still a lot of details that need to be worked out in the House single-payer plan, but many Democrats in the House and Senate were rallying around the idea and giving it new life.
“Conservatives tried and failed this year to dramatically reduce the government’s role in the US health system,” Stein wrote. “Now, liberals are looking more and more likely to try to nationalize that system if they take back Congress.”