Democrats Schedule First COVID-Era Hearing on Medicare for All


Rep. Cori Bush speaks at a House Judiciary Committee hearing at the U.S. Capitol on October 21, 2021, in Washington, D.C.

Democrats in the House Oversight Committee have scheduled the first hearing to consider Medicare for All since the onset of the pandemic, as progressive lawmakers wage a new push for the proposal.

Oversight Committee Chair Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney (D-New York) and Rep. Cori Bush (D-Missouri) will lead the hearing, scheduled for Tuesday, March 22, to consider proposals for universal health care and to assess the ways that the U.S.’s primarily private health care system is affecting people without insurance.

The hearing will also feature Representatives Alexandria Ocasio Cortez (D-New York), Rashida Tlaib (D-Michigan) and Ayanna Pressley (D-Massachusetts), as well as testimony from big names in the Medicare for All sphere, like activist Ady Barkan and economics professor Jeffrey Sachs, among others.

“We deserve a health care system that prioritizes people over profits, humanity over greed, and compassion over exploitation,” Bush wrote on Thursday. “That’s why we’re holding our first Medicare for All hearing since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. This policy will save lives.”

This is the latest move in progressive lawmakers’ recent push to revive the campaign for Medicare for All, which has been relatively dormant in Congress for several years; the last time Democrats held a hearing on the subject was 2019.

In the hearing, lawmakers will cover Rep. Pramila Jayapal’s (D-Washington) Medicare for All Act, which would establish a single-payer health care system and which recently surpassed a record 120 cosponsors. Democrats will also discuss inequities faced by non-white people, people with disabilities and LGBTQ people, who are disproportionately underinsured or uninsured.

“As chairwoman of the Oversight Committee,” Maloney told The Nation, “I am holding this hearing to examine how the gaps in our current system threaten the health of the most vulnerable among us and how Congress can ensure that every person in this country has access to high-quality health care — no matter who they are.”

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont) recently announced that he is planning to reintroduce his Medicare for All legislation; the last time he did so was in 2019.

“In the midst of the current set of horrors — war, oligarchy, pandemics, inflation, climate change, etc. — we must continue the fight to establish healthcare as a human right, not a privilege,” Sanders wrote. The Vermont lawmaker also recently called for all medical debt to be abolished.

The hearing comes during a pandemic that has exposed major cracks in the U.S. health care system. In the early months of the pandemic, an estimated 7.7 million people lost health care coverage after losing their jobs, leaving them in the lurch as COVID-19 swept the U.S., the only wealthy country in the world that doesn’t have universal health care.

As the pandemic continues, disparities in pandemic-related health outcomes have become even more clear. A survey last year found that about 1 in every 3 COVID deaths and 40 percent of cases are linked to a lack of health insurance. Another study found that for every 10 percent increase in a county’s rate of uninsured people, the county experienced 70 percent more COVID infections and 50 percent more deaths.

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