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DeLauro, Schakowsky Reintroduce Medicare for America

May 1, 2019
Press Release

WASHINGTON, DC (May 1, 2019)Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro (CT-03) and Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky (IL-09) today reintroduced the Medicare for America Act—a bill that would ensure universal, affordable, high-quality healthcare coverage. Medicare for America builds on the success of Medicare and Medicaid by expanding these programs’ covered benefits and services to include 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 also achieves universal coverage while preserving quality employer-sponsored insurance. Americans who are uninsured or do not have employer-sponsored insurance—including those currently on the individual market—would be auto-enrolled into Medicare for America.

“Our country has long aspired to create a universal healthcare system that gives people quality coverage without the fear of skyrocketing costs and the hassle of unnecessary complexity. Medicare for America puts us squarely on that path,” said Congresswoman DeLauro. “With an extensive benefits package, caps on premiums and out-of-pocket costs, no deductibles, incentives to expand our healthcare workforce, and the power to bring down high drug costs, Medicare for America will ensure every American has access to high-quality, affordable coverage they can rely on.”

“We need bold ideas to transform our health care system and reach the goal of universal coverage in the United States. Medicare for America is one of those ideas, and I am proud to join my friend Representative DeLauro to introduce a bill that is one solid plan to achieve that goal,” said Congresswoman Schakowsky. “I am working with my colleagues to improve health equity and access this Congress, and Medicare for America is a proposal that gets us there. As a member of the Medicare for All Caucus, I believe that every person in America deserves high quality, affordable, and comprehensive health care. Medicare for America achieves that goal by including coverage for all reproductive health care, allowing for transparency and negotiation on prescription drug costs, improving long-term services and supports for seniors and Americans living with disabilities, and strengthening our health care workforce. Most importantly, Medicare for America provides universal coverage, covering each and every American.”

Under Medicare for America, individuals and families will have no out-of-pocket costs for preventive and chronic disease services—including pediatric, maternity, and emergency services—long-term services and supports, and prescription drugs—generic or brand name as necessary. Medicare for America also lifts the current prohibition on Medicare’s ability to negotiate prescription drug prices—a ban that has kept drug prices artificially high and increased healthcare costs for millions of Americans.

“Health care is a fundamental human right, not a privilege. It’s exciting to see this proposal, which guarantees universal coverage, in the Congress,” said Neera Tanden, President and CEO of the Center for American Progress. “At the core of Medicare for America are three critical principles: universal coverage, patient choice, and lower costs. This bold, affordable approach is overdue in America. We applaud the progressive leaders today for introducing this landmark bill.”

“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.”

“This is an important bill. It demonstrates a remarkable, beneficiary-oriented knowledge of Medicare and attention to detail,” said Judith A. Stein, Executive Director of the Center for Medicare Advocacy. “Medicare for America includes invaluable improvements for current Medicare beneficiaries and for those who would be covered through expansion of the program. These range from improvements to coverage, reducing out-of-pocket costs, and enhancing access to fair appeals. The bill is an important step towards health care coverage for all.”

Currently, there is incredibly limited access to long-term supports and supports in Medicare and private insurance, leaving Medicaid as the primary payer for 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.

“We are grateful to Representatives DeLauro and Schakowsky for including long term services and supports (LTSS) as part of the Medicare for America bill,” said Nicole Jorwic, Senior Director of Public Policy of The Arc of the United States. “This will address the current institutional bias in the Medicaid program and increase access to the supports and services that allow people with disabilities to access the community, including people on waiting lists for these services all over the country. The inclusion of LTSS is an important recognition of the value of the lives of people with disabilities and the right that all people should have to a life in the community.”

“The Medicare for America bill takes a big and bold approach to providing the basic right to affordable healthcare for all Americans, including the essential care and services seniors and people with disabilities need to live with dignity at home,” said Terrell Williams, a New Haven, Conn. home care worker and member of SEIU District 1199 New England. "The proposed bill recognizes that we must have a stable healthcare workforce and will look at our wages and other policies to keep dedicated workers. I have no doubt that this bill is a big step forward for working people and that the best way to raise our wages and advocate for better job and quality of care standards is by giving all workers the opportunity to join together in unions.”

“The Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities is thankful to Representatives DeLauro and Schakowsky for including long term supports and services in the Medicare for America bill introduced today,” said Lisa Ekman, Chair of the Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities. “These services are imperative for people with disabilities and older adults to live healthy lives in their communities.”

“Health care is a human right, and one that is of vital importance to allow the millions of Americans with complex medical needs and disabilities, including children, to survive and thrive,” said Elena Hung President and Co-founder of Little Lobbyists. “We are so grateful that, in drafting Medicare for America, Representatives DeLauro and Schakowsky worked closely with the disability community to ensure a health care system that includes and supports people with disabilities. In particular, Medicare for America's robust community-based long term supports and services, and coverage for all children currently on waiting lists for Medicaid/Medicaid waiver programs, would provide necessary care - and peace of mind - to millions of Americans. These benefits are necessary in any truly universal health care proposal, and we will continue to work to ensure that any health care reform reflects the needs and input of the disability community.”

Given the intended expansion of healthcare coverage to tens of millions more people, Medicare for America also accounts for the need to ensure there are enough healthcare providers by creating a new student loan forgiveness program for healthcare workers like direct care workers, mental health counselors, licensed marriage and family therapists, physician assistants, pharmacists, dentists, dental hygienists, doctors, and nurses. The program will forgive 10 percent of student loan debt for each year the provider or institution the provider works for accepts the Medicare for America plan.

If enacted, Medicare for America would fix the current two-tiered healthcare system by banning private contracting. The wealthy and well-connected currently use private contracting to pay for care from providers who do not accept health insurance and demand to be paid completely out of pocket. Meanwhile, the vast majority of Americans—who rely on their health insurance to defray the high cost of care—cannot afford to receive care from these providers.

Medicare for America offers a simple, transparent cost structure. Individuals and families will have no deductibles. Individuals will have a $3,500 maximum out-of-pocket spending, and households will have a $5,000 maximum out-of-pocket spending. Medicare for America also ensures coverage is affordable for all by capping individual and household premiums at 8 percent of their monthly income. Individuals or families making less than 200 percent of the Federal Poverty Level will not pay a premium or have a maximum out-of-pocket spending threshold. And individuals or families with incomes between 200 percent and 600 percent of the Federal Poverty Level will receive subsidies to lower their premium contribution and will have their maximum out-of-pocket spending established on a sliding scale.

A brief summary of the Medicare for America Act’s can be found here. The bill’s cosponsors include: Rep. Joe Kennedy III (MA-04), Rep. William Lacy Clay (MO-1), Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton (DC-AL), Rep. Raúl Grijalva (AZ-03), Rep. Salud Carbajal (CA-24), Rep. Lori Trahan (MA-03), Rep. Tim Ryan (OH-13), Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (TX-18), Rep. Bennie Thompson (MS-02), Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard (CA-40), Rep. Betty McCollum (MN-04), Rep. Gwen Moore (WI-04), Rep. Bobby Rush (IL-01), and Rep. Brian Higgins (NY-26).