Ahead of the House Ways and Means Committee’s historic Medicare for All hearing Wednesday morning, committee chairman Rep. Richard Neal—a longtime opponent of single-payer and major beneficiary of insurance industry cash—reportedly informed the panel’s Democrats behind closed doors that he doesn’t want the phrase ‘Medicare for All’ to be mentioned during the session.
“Neal, a Massachusetts Democrat who has been in office since 1989, told the Democrats on the panel that he didn’t want the phrase ‘Medicare for All’ to be used,” The Intercept reported Tuesday. “Instead, he said, the hearing should focus on all the different ways to achieve ‘universal healthcare’ or ‘universal health coverage,’ which he said was a better term to deploy.”
“Leaving commercial insurers in charge of our health will continue to fail patients, exactly why Medicare for All is the only solution that will guarantee healthcare as a human right.”
—Bonnie Castillo, National Nurses United
“Medicare for All, he argued, was wrong on policy and is a political loser,” according to The Intercept, which cited sources present at the private meeting held last week.
Neal did not deny that he wants the focus of the hearing to be on the more vague idea of “universal healthcare” rather than the specific solutions proposed by Medicare for All advocates.
“I think what we’re talking about, we’re talking about universal healthcare and access,” Neal told The Intercept. “That’s the emphasis. So we have not ruled anything out or ruled anything in. And we think that continuing to gathering information—I mean, I helped to write the Affordable Care Act, I’m naturally in favor of expanding it.”
The Intercept‘s reporting appeared to confirm longstanding fears among progressives that congressional hearings on Rep. Pramila Jayapal’s (D-Wash.) Medicare for All Act of 2019—which currently has 112 Democratic co-sponsors—could be used by centrist House Democrats as a vehicle to push incremental reforms to the ACA instead of the transformational change grassroots forces are demanding.
Jayapal is not a member of the House Ways and Means Committee and, according to The Intercept, did not attend the private meeting with Neal and other Democrats on the panel.
Nevertheless, Jayapal expressed confidence that Medicare for All will receive sufficient attention at the hearing, which is scheduled to begin at 10:00 am ET on Wednesday.
“I would just say it is impossible to have a hearing on Medicare for All without saying those words,” Jayapal told The Intercept. “I am confident that our Medicare for All supporters on the committee will talk about the policy and the bill completely.”
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