Competing Healthcare Visions
September 15, 2017
On September 13, two visions of healthcare were on display in the U.S. Senate. Senators Bill Cassidy (R-LA), Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Dean Heller (R-NV), and Ron Johnson (R-WI) introduced yet another attempt to repeal the Affordable Care Act, which would take health coverage away from tens of millions of Americans by cutting Medicaid and ACA funding. On the same day, Senator Bernie Sanders (D-VT) and 16 Democratic cosponsors introduced “Medicare for all” legislation, which after a four year transition would create a national health insurance system that would cover all people in the U.S.
The Medicare for All Act of 2017 is an aspirational bill that reflects a moral vision of healthcare as a right, not a privilege or a consumer good available to those who can afford it. It would expand Medicare to all ages and broaden the benefits to include comprehensive vision and dental care with zero premiums, copays, and deductibles for all. With Republican majorities in the House and Senate opposing the bill, it has no chance of passage in the near future. As an organizing tool and a messaging bill, however, the bill is a welcome addition that shows one way our nation could guarantee quality, affordable healthcare for all.
The new ACA repeal proposal led by Senators Cassidy and Graham would do quite the opposite. Under the familiar guise of state flexibility, it would replace the ACA’s marketplace subsidies and Medicaid expansion funding with a shrinking block grant. In addition, it includes a per-capita cap on Medicaid that would increasingly cut the program over time. While it has not yet been analyzed by the Congressional Budget Office, it is likely that such deep cuts would cause millions to lose health coverage over time. After months of partisan repeal attempts have failed and given way to bipartisan conversations, this return to a harmful repeal proposal is unfortunate. The Cassidy Graham bill does not appear to have the votes to pass at this time, but it is important to remain vigilant.
With the number of uninsured Americans at an all-time low of 28.1 million, policies that would set us back and cause more to go uninsured are not acceptable. We must mend the gaps in access to healthcare so that everybody has access to the quality, affordable healthcare they need to thrive. As Pope Francis said, “health is not a consumer good, but a universal right, so access to health services cannot be a privilege.” The Medicare for All Act reflects this moral vision of healthcare as a right, but the latest ACA repeal bill does not.