A pair of left-leaning politicians is introducing legislation in the House and Senate to create a Medicare-for-all health care system through the states, suggesting that despite last year's overhaul, a single-payer system is still needed for health care to be considered a right in America.
"Now is the time for the United States of America to join the rest of the industrialized world and say health care is a right of all people, not a privilege for the few," Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., said at a press conference Tuesday with Rep. Jim McDermott, D-Wash. "I think health care reform is a step forward. We have got to go a lot further."
The system would be funded and enforced by the federal government, but would have states administer the care. Sanders says that despite the implementation of federal money and standards, the idea of putting health care into the hands of states should be attractive to Republicans who believe in less federal control.
"For our Republican friends who say let the states be the laboratory of Democracy, we are saying ok, we agree with you. Let's get that waiver. Let's let states go forward in that single-payer fashion."
But the plan is unlikely to sit well with Republicans who fought off single-payer aspects of Obama's signature Affordable Care Act before it was voted on in 2010. McDermott wants to take advantage of a stipulation that did make it into the law to create the federally-funded, state-run system.
"[I]t has in it the provision for waivers for states to run their own system," McDermott said. "There clearly is a fear in the country against a one-size-fits-all coming out of Washington, D.C. This is the perfect answer to that. This is saying to a state ‘if you want to develop your own system, and you will provide the benefits that would be provided nationally, you want to provide it your way, go ahead and do it.'"
McDermott argues that without a system that provides for everyone, health care costs won't come down.
"There's still a lot of people who aren't covered," he said. "And in order to make a system really be able to control the costs, you have to have everybody in the system. You can't have a large segment of the population coming into the emergency rooms ... rather than having preventive care."
Still, many Republicans have argued any single-payer system would not cut costs and would lead to rationed care that ultimately takes health care decisions away from patients.