Single Payer and a Repeal: Two Health Care Bills to Emerge in the Senate, Neither Expected to Get Far
Wednesday will see two new — not to mention vastly different — health care bills being introduced in the Senate, and if history is any lesson, neither is expected to make much traction.
Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) will introduce his “Medicare for All” bill, a single-payer option that was a large part of his 2016 presidential campaign.
Taking to The New York Times on Wednesday, Sanders shared his thoughts on the matter in an op-ed.
Do we, as a nation, join the rest of the industrialized world and guarantee comprehensive health care to every person as a human right? Or do we maintain a system that is enormously expensive, wasteful and bureaucratic, and is designed to maximize profits for big insurance companies, the pharmaceutical industry, Wall Street and medical equipment suppliers.
The senator from Vermont last introduced a single-payer option back in 2013. While he had no co-sponsors for his legislation back then, this time around, the game is slightly different.
Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Cory Booker (D-N.J.) have signed on as co-sponsoring the bill (along with 13 other Democratic senators), though many still remain skeptical of the legislation. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) have distanced themselves from the Sanders-led bill.
Sanders pointed to Medicare — and its success — as a metaphor for his new legislation, saying that "guaranteeing comprehensive health benefits to Americans over 65 has proved to be enormously successful, cost-effective and popular.
“Now is the time to expand and improve Medicare to cover all Americans,” he added.
On the other side of the aisle are Sens. Bill Cassidy (R-La.), Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), Dean Heller (R-Nev.), and Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) who are looking to, once again, repeal Obamacare.
September 30 marks a specific deadline for the GOP in its attempts to repeal the Affordable Care Act — that is when the fast track option to pass a bill without Democratic votes expires.
According to The Hill, Cassidy met with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) who told him that he needed to garner their own support for their new health care legislation.
“He just says we need 50 votes,” Cassidy told The Hill, implying that Vice President Mike Pence would be the one to cast the tie-breaking final vote, should it come to it.
After three stunning losses on the subject of health care over the last few months, many in the GOP have moved on to other issues, such as tax reform.
Regardless of which party originated the legislation, neither bill is expected to go far in the Senate, let alone pass.
Sanders's single-payer option is still considered, by many, to be too controversial and difficult to implement to work at present.
Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) said that he would like to see the legislation go through the normal process in committee before he decided how he would vote.
“I'm not signing on to a piece of legislation that I don't have any idea what it's going to do to the economy, to the access, and to people's care,” he added, according to The Hill.
The GOP's option is also unlikely to make any traction, even within the party.
Surprisingly, though, when asked Monday if he had garnered any other in-party support for his bill, Cassidy mentioned Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), most famous for his upset vote against his own party's repeal attempt in July.
McCain, for his part, walked back his support, if only slightly, by saying that he wanted to see committee hearings on the legislation before moving forward with his decision.
Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) seemed to imply that the bill could be DOA, saying, “I don't think it's going anywhere. I haven't heard anybody talking about it,” according to The Hill.
Three Republican “no” votes would kill the bill.
Sanders, for his part, acknowledged the difficult battle his legislation has ahead of it — not to mention the opposition that comes along with that battle.
“They are on the wrong side of history,” Sanders opined when talking about those opposed to his single-payer option.
“Guaranteeing health care as a right is important to the American people not just from a moral and financial perspective,” Sanders added in his NYT op-ed. “It also happens to be what the majority of the American people want.”