By Jennifer Earl
Published March 06, 2019
Illinois Rep. Cheri Bustos weighed in on the hotly debated "Medicare-for-all" bill — a sweeping overhaul of the nation’s health care system — on Tuesday, shrugging it off as just one idea.
Bustos, who was elected chairwoman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) for the House of Representatives in late November, said in an interview with The Hill on Wednesday that the estimated $33 trillion price tag was "a little scary" and suggested there may be alternative options.
“The Green New Deal is an idea. ‘Medicare-for-all’ is an idea. But there are many others that are out there,” Bustos told the publication.
"Medicare-for-all" would expand benefits beyond what is already offered under former President Barack Obama's Affordable Care Act. It would require significant tax increases since the government would essentially take over premiums now paid by employers and individuals as it replaces the private health insurance industry.
"The transition from what we have now to Medicare for all, it’s just hard to conceive how that would work."
“What do we have — 130 million-something Americans who get their health insurance through their work? The transition from what we have now to 'Medicare-for-all,' it’s just hard to conceive how that would work. You have so many jobs attached to the health care industry," Bustos commented.
On her campaign website, Bustos touts her previous career in the health industry, working for "one of the nation’s largest non-denominational, non-profit health care systems" to help families find affordable coverage. She worked in the health field "before, during and after the passage of the Affordable Care Act," her biography states.
A study released last summer by the Mercatus Center at George Mason University estimated it would cost $32.6 trillion ($3.26 trillion per year) over 10 years. For comparison, the federal budget proposal for the fiscal year 2019 was $4.4 trillion, the Congressional Budget Office states.
However, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, who first drafted the proposal, has blasted the Mercatus Center's analysis as “grossly misleading and biased."
More than 100 House Democrats including a handful of 2020 presidential hopefuls have already agreed to co-sponsor the legislation — which is strongly opposed by President Trump and the GOP — that would move the U.S. to a virtual single-payer system.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., has yet to endorse the bill but indicated she would allow hearings on the legislation to proceed. Bustos said she, too, would be open to holding discussions on "Medicare-for-all" in the near future.
“The vast majority of Democrats in the U.S. House of Representatives want to see us fix the Affordable Care Act and make it functional ... so we can protect people with pre-existing conditions and so people have affordable health care," she told The Hill.