When the latest attempt to repeal the Affordable Care Act — the Graham-Cassidy bill — failed before reaching the Senate last week, many people were left wondering how the health care debate will move forward. If the past few months are any indication, the answer is nowhere.
Congress is so divided on health care that the passage of meaningful legislation on the matter is becoming more and more of a pipe dream. Republicans have campaigned on the idea of repealing and replacing the Affordable Care Act since it was first implemented seven years ago. However, even upon winning the presidency and a majority in both chambers of Congress, they have been unable to fulfill this promise. They have made three repeal attempts since January, each one more desperate than the last, and each one has failed.
In each case, a few Republicans — Senators John McCain, Susan Collins, Lisa Murkowski, and Rand Paul — were not willing to get on board. During the first two attempts, Murkowski cited the cutting of Medicare in her home state of Alaska as the reason for her opposition. Collins, from Maine, opposed cuts to Medicaid and diminishing protections for those with pre-existing conditions, as well as rising premiums and falling coverage rates that would result from the bill. McCain, for his part, felt that the bills were rushed, and that Congress needed to return to regular order and take adequate time to discuss and analyze important legislative decisions.
These three Republican Senators — joined by Paul of Kentucky — were the reason for the downfall of the third main repeal attempt, the Graham-Cassidy bill. Paul opposed Graham-Cassidy because he felt that it was “Obamacare-lite,” and that it did not do enough to repeal the ACA.
Now that Republicans have missed their chance to pass health care reform through a simple majority vote, they will be forced to work across the aisle and scrap any plans that will not pick up enough Democratic support. Democrats have been very unified in their opposition to bills that Republicans have proposed thus far, but it is unclear how, exactly, they want to move forward.
One-third of Senate Democrats have put their support behind Senator Bernie Sanders’ proposed Medicare For All Program, while the other two-thirds of Senate Democrats favor more incremental improvements to the ACA, rather than a complete revamping of it.
This gridlock on health care is unlikely to end any time soon, but senators on both sides of the aisle should seriously consider Sanders’ Medicare For All plan. When it comes to health care, partisanship should be an afterthought, while the well-being of Americans should be the priority. Sanders’ plan puts lives before profits and ensures that everyone — regardless of age or medical condition — will have access to health care.
The current high-profit health care insurance industry is not what is best for Americans. When insurance companies profit off of health care, they are incentivized to discourage people who are more likely to get sick from getting insured. Also, they are less likely to collaborate on medical advancements, because other companies are their competitors. The system, as it is, has put us in a situation in which tens of millions of Americans do not have health care. In a country with so much wealth, we cannot stand for this.
A single-payer system should be adopted to create a process through which the government would be in charge of financing health care while the actual facilitation of medical services would still be within the private domain. If this single-payer model were to pass, it would mean that everyone would have health insurance, could choose any doctor’s office, and receive whatever treatment they need. Although this plan might seem like a fantasy, it would be following in the footsteps of Canada and the United Kingdom, among other nations — by treating health care as a right instead of a privilege.
The good news for progressives that favor this plan is that each 2020 Democratic frontrunner — including Senators Kirsten Gillibrand, Corey Booker, Kamala Harris, Elizabeth Warren, and Sanders — has advocated for it. If Democrats are able to regain control of Congress in 2018, and maintain it in 2020, we may start to see a more compassionate, effective approach to health care in our government.