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DeLauro, Schakowsky Introduce Medicare for America

December 19, 2018
Press Release

WASHINGTON, DC (December 19, 2018)Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro (CT-03) and Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky (IL-09) today introduced the Medicare for America Act, a new healthcare bill that would ensure universal, high-quality, affordable health coverage by making Medicare accessible to all Americans and expanding the program’s covered benefits and services. The Medicare for America plan includes coverage for prescription drugs, dental, vision, and hearing services, as well as long-term supports and services for seniors and Americans living with disabilities.

Medicare for America achieves universal coverage while preserving quality employer-sponsored insurance for those who have it and are satisfied. Americans who are uninsured or do not have employer-sponsored insurance—including those on the individual market—would be auto-enrolled into Medicare for America.

“Healthcare affects the lives of every American, yet our current system fails far too many of them each day,” said Congresswoman DeLauro. “From exorbitant premiums and deductibles to skimpy plans that do not cover the essentials, healthcare in America is complex and costly when you need it. Even worse, the gains Americans secured through the Affordable Care Act—such as coverage for those with pre-existing conditions and Medicaid expansion—are under attack from President Trump and Congressional Republicans, who say one thing publicly while they work to dismantle healthcare coverage. This is not the path we should be on.”

“But we cannot just stay on the defensive—people’s lives are at stake,” continued DeLauro. “An individual’s zip code should not determine their benefits, as our current healthcare system is largely a patchwork of what states cover under Medicaid and state mandates for private insurance. That is why we must continue to fight until every American has healthcare coverage they can afford and that meets their needs. Through Medicare for America, we can finally ensure that all Americans have the same robust benefits and services package.”

One of the largest drivers of healthcare costs in the United States is the cost of prescription drugs. Currently, the United States government is banned from negotiating prescription drug prices under Medicare, which keeps prices artificially high for millions of Americans. Medicare for America will finally remove that ban, and if negotiations fail, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) will use the prices paid by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) or the average price of these drugs in Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) nations.

“Every person in America deserves quality, affordable, and comprehensive healthcare,” said Congresswoman Schakowsky. “That is why I am so proud to join Representative DeLauro in introducing Medicare For America. Now more than ever, we must look into every way to address the problems in our healthcare system. This bill goes a long way to strengthen Medicare and provide excellent healthcare to all Americans.  As a member of the Medicare for All Caucus, I believe this bill is an important step to expanding coverage to reducing out-of-pocket healthcare costs and covering important services like long-term care and prescription drugs.”

Medicare for America offers a simple, transparent cost structure. Individuals will have a $350 deductible and $3,500 maximum out-of-pocket spending. For households, their deductible will be $500 and $5,000 maximum out-of-pocket spending. Medicare for America also ensures coverage is affordable for all by capping individual and household premiums at 9.69 percent of their monthly income. Individuals or families making less than 200 percent of the Federal Poverty Level will not pay a premium, have to meet a deductible, or have a maximum out-of-pocket spending. Individuals or families between 200 percent and 600 percent of the Federal Poverty Level will receive subsidies to lower their contribution to the premium.

“Medicare for America sets a new standard for universal health care that’s affordable, universal, comprehensive—and possible,” said Jacob S. Hacker, Stanley Resor Professor of Political Science and Director of the Institution for Social and Policy Studies at Yale University. “It not only builds on the best aspects of Medicare; it also improves the program for those now within it so it can be a secure foundation for quality coverage for all Americans for generations to come.”

“Health care is a fundamental human right and the foundation of economic security for all people,” said Neera Tanden, CEO of the Center for American Progress Action Fund. “‘Medicare for America’ is an important contribution to the debate over how to improve our health care system. By making an enhanced Medicare program available to all Americans, ‘Medicare for America’ would guarantee universal health care and dramatically lower out-of-pocket costs. The legislation would ensure that every American, no matter where he or she lives, is no longer subject to Republican sabotage or the whims of insurance companies.”

Currently, there is incredibly limited access to long-term supports and supports in Medicare and private insurance, leaving Medicaid to be the primary payer of these services and supports. With an emphasis on home and community-based settings, Medicare for America establishes and guarantees access to long-term support and services.

“The Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities is thankful to Representative DeLauro and Representative Schakowsky for introducing a healthcare reform bill that recognizes that all must mean all, people and services,” said Kim Musheno, Chair of the Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities. “We appreciate that the bill includes a benefit for community-based long term supports and services. These services are imperative for people with disabilities and older adults to live healthy lives in their communities.”

“The Arc is grateful that Representative DeLauro and Representative Schakowsky have included a robust Long Term Supports and Services benefit, with an emphasis on community-based services in this bill,” said Nicole Jorwic, Director of Rights Policy for The Arc of the United States. “It is imperative that any healthcare reform include these services, that are vital to the lives of people with intellectual disabilities and their families.”

The Medicare for America Act’s legislative text can be found here, and a brief summary can be found here.