New Sanders/Jayapal bill: the Healthcare Emergency Guarantee Act

Next week, Medicare for All lead sponsors Sen. Bernie Sanders and Rep. Pramila Jayapal will introduce a bill that will authorize Medicare to fully cover medical costs for the uninsured until we have a widely available vaccine for COVID-19. The bill would also provide wrap-around coverage for everyone on public or private insurance. We contrast this bill to the other two healthcare proposals competing for a place in the next relief package. The Koch brothers are trashing Medicare for All with a new healthcare campaign. Health insurers continue to make a profit, but are still crying for help from Congress.

Show Notes

Burglers broke into the Healthcare-NOW office this past week! They stole loose cash and trashed our non-profit. If you’re able to help us with our moving costs, you can donate here.

Back to the Medicare for All movement! Congress will soon be taking up a “CARES 2” relief package, and the million-dollar question: will there be any relief for the millions of people losing their health insurance (because they lost their jobs)?

There are now three Democratic proposals, but it’s unclear whether any healthcare reform at all will be able to make it through the Senate (which is a shocking prospect).

We’re fans option #1: the “Health Care Emergency Guarantee Act,” which will be filed by Senator Bernie Sanders and Representative Pramila Jayapal. This would empower Medicare to cover every U.S. resident, until a vaccine for COVID-19 is widely available. Every uninsured resident would be covered, and Medicare would also cover co-pays and deductibles for everyone with private or public health insurance. This would achieve the access goals of Medicare for All, but not yet eliminating private insurance – that would have to come next for the program to be sustainable.

Contrast this with option #2: the “Worker Health Coverage Protection Act,” which is being championed by Democratic leadership, including Nancy Pelosi. This bill would 100% subsidize the premiums for COBRA – this is the law that lets some workers stay on their previous employer’s healthcare plan, if it still exists.

There is also a new proposal, option #3: the “Medicare Crisis Program Act,” filed by Reps. Pramila Jayapal and Joe Kennedy. This would enroll all of the recently unemployed (since the pandemic) in Medicare, although you would still have to pay most of Medicare’s co-pays and deductibles (up to 5% of your income). We like this plan better than the COBRA subsidies: way more people would be eligible, and it’s not a giveaway to for-profit insurance companies. But it does still leave out the previously uninsured, and the co-pays and deductibles could be worse than COBRA coverage for workers who had really good healthcare previously (like some union members).

Now that we’ve summarized all of these Democratic bills, bad news: it’s unclear whether the Senate will agree to any health insurance relief at all. Senate Republicans have signaled that they want to extract all sorts of concessions (liability reform, tax cuts) if they agree to even things like aid for states and municipalities. Democratic leadership in the Senate have a list of priorities, but healthcare isn’t one of them. Is it possible that 30-40 million people will lose their health insurance – during an unprecedented health crisis – and Congress will do nothing? Sadly, yes: it’s possible.

Next up, the Koch brothers are getting in on the healthcare game: the Koch-funded Americans for Prosperity have launched a national healthcare campaign. They’re saying their plan is the anti-Medicare for All proposal, but they mostly want to deregulate prescription drugs and other provider regulations… including automatically approving any drug approved in Japan or Europe. But not Canada! or the U.K! or Australia!

Meanwhile, the health insurance industry is trying to play the American public. At the same time that they’re crying wolf to Congress – threatening huge premium increases next year, begging for bailout funds – they’re telling their stockholders they expect to meet or exceed their profits for 2020 and 2021. The healthcare system is breaking down for just about everyone in the country, but not for health insurers – it turns out coronavirus is good for business, since so many are putting off other types of care.

Stephanie signs off from Denmark, where she is recording from, and where the coronavirus crisis is under much better control – having nothing, absolutely nothing to do with their Medicare for All-type healthcare system!

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  1. William Bronston, MD on May 20, 2020 at 3:07 pm

    We formally support the Health Care Emergency Guarantee Act and are seeking its Senate or House number to make our advocacy more incisive! please get back to us asap. gratefully, bill bronston, MD. Sacramento CA PNHP