Last Friday, Eric Zorn wrote a Tribune column about House Resolution 676 (H.Res. 676). It’s a resolution to support the “Medicare For All Act.” And it’s an action that columnist Zorn believes could finally lead to a serious movement toward true universal healthcare.
I believe that too.
H.Res. 676 states that the Medicare For All Act would “provide all individuals residing in the United States and U.S. territories with free health care that includes all medically necessary care, such as primary care and prevention, dietary and nutritional therapies, prescription drugs, emergency care, long-term care, mental health services, dental services, and vision care.”
In the days after President Trump and House Speaker Paul Ryan introduced the Republican Party’s American Health Care Act, a spotlight was focused on what the public needs and expects for their healthcare as Americans. This renewed national discussion of the pros and cons of the present Obamacare system and the Trump/Ryan replacement struck me as a timely opportunity for Congressional Democrats to introduce something new and better, and in the process take a serious discussion of this important national issue to a new, productive level.
The main premise of Mr. Zorn’s column went something like this: There are moments in our society when the “public mind” (at least the majority of those minds) is open to the discussion of a major shift in public norms. In a democracy, this means the lawmakers find themselves with the public’s “permission” – and beyond that, their encouragement – to pursue new policy.
In times when that permission isn’t prevalent, legislators have little hope of moving in a new direction. But when that moment begins to appear, our political representatives need to recognize it, initiate discussion and keep that discussion going. They cannot be tentative. They must keep the subject on the front burner.
As an example, Zorn mentioned the arrival of same-sex marriage as a now accepted reality across our nation. Not too many years ago, just the discussion of that possibility would have been considered naïve. But over time, the public’s views began to change.
No single event shifted public opinion. Factors ranged from the human tragedy of the Aids crisis to TV sit-com gay themes. We saw the “coming out” of popular public figures. Lawsuits and legislation began to attack cases of discrimination in business. Our all-volunteer military began to face reality and shift its policies. It all built up to a moment when laws could be proposed and eventually passed that finally recognized that gay men and women in America have the right to marry the person they love.
The bill for Medicare for All has been introduced in every Congress since 2003, and as Eric Zorn said, with Republicans controlling every branch of government it has no chance of becoming law. But this year 56% of House Democrats (109 of 193) have signed it — so far. The Illinois Representatives signing as co-sponsors were Schakowsky, Kelly, Gutierrez, Davis and Rush. At this point, several Illinois Representatives have declined to sign on.
Zorn contacted the offices of each of the Illinois Congresspersons who declined to sign, Representatives Quigley, Lipinski, Foster, Bustos, Krishnamoorthi and Schneider and he reported that each had thoughtful reasons for not yet signing. It is certainly true that implementing a “single-payer system,” so completely different from the present less-than-satisfactory mixed system of private and government is a very complex proposition.
But with that said, the importance of pushing back against the Republican Party’s gutting of healthcare services for so many Americans is very real. Although President Obama’s Affordable Care Act is flawed, it has given millions of Americans a level of healthcare security they had never known. And ironically, the outrageously bad American Health Care Act constructed by Paul Ryan’s House members has shown millions of Americans how much worse things could be.
If it weren’t for the almost daily string of screwy actions by President Trump, the subject of rewriting a better American healthcare plan would have quite likely continued to be one of America’s most discussed issues. And it still can be if the Democratic Party strategists and leadership, and all of our Illinois Representatives decide to take a stand on what our nation’s ideal healthcare goal should be.
Based on the number of Democratic Congresspersons who co-sponsored H.Res. 676, more than half (56%) of the Democrats in the U.S. House already believe Medicare for All should be America’s healthcare system. And, polls show that a lot of voters lean toward that idea. Almost everyone knows someone who has Medicare coverage. Virtually everyone trusts it. As Zorn said on Friday, even Donald Trump endorsed the concept of Medicare for All in a book back in 2000.
Obamacare was a brave effort to address this obvious need but it is clear that it did not resolve the issue. House Resolution 676 deserves to be a major Democratic Party talking point as we approach the 2018 elections. Our Illinois Congresspersons, all of them, should not let this opportunity pass.
NTDO member since 1973
Good News! We now have a new NTD Office Manager. Our new office manager is Joan Fishman. On top of being a very nice person, Joan has impressive administrative experience. As the summer NTD activities progress, many of you will have opportunities to meet her.
UltimateWomen’s Power Lunch,
here is a link to a video of the entire event.
To watch parts or all of the lunch presentation
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