House Dems renew push for 'Medicare-for-all,' pressure Biden to move left

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A group of progressive Democrats is renewing their push for "Medicare-for-all" this week, using the coronavirus pandemic to make the case for a sweeping overhaul of the nation's health care system.

Reps. Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash., and Debbie Dingell, D-Mich., reintroduced legislation on Wednesday that would transition the U.S. to a single-payer model in which a government-run health plan provides insurance coverage to all Americans.

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"While this devastating pandemic is shining a bright light on our broken, for-profit health care system, we were already leaving nearly half of all adults under the age of 65 uninsured or underinsured before COVID-19 hit," Jayapal said in a statement. "And we were cruelly doing so while paying more per capita for health care than any other country in the world."

The U.S. health care system is the most expensive in the world, and its cost far surpasses that of other high-income nations, according to a 2019 report from the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development. America spends about $1 trillion more than Switzerland, the second-most expensive system – meaning U.S. households spend roughly $8,000 more than their Swiss counterparts.

Even though it spends an astronomical amount on health care, the U.S. has the lowest life expectancy and the highest infant mortality rates, compared to the U.K., Canada, Germany, Australia, Japan, Sweden, France, Denmark, the Netherlands and Switzerland, according to a JAMA study.

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Under the proposed measure, Americans would pay nothing out of pocket when they visit the doctor or hospital. But critics say that universal health coverage would increase wait times and reduce the quality of care, in addition to triggering an increase in taxes and overall government spending.

Experts estimate that "Medicare-for-all" would cost somewhere between $32 trillion and $34 trillion over the next decade, although advocates say total health spending would decrease in a centralized system.

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Still, the measure stands little chance of becoming law: Both Republicans and moderate Democrats, as well as President Biden, oppose universal health care, saying it's too costly and too challenging to pay for.

During the 2020 presidential campaign, Biden advocated for an expansion of the Affordable Care Act by adding a public option that's open to all Americans but preserves the option for individuals to keep their private insurance.

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