Five Promising Signs (From This Week Alone) That Single-Payer's Gaining Steam

'The momentum is building,' says one Democratic lawmaker
Deirdre Fulton
March 31, 2017
Bernie Sanders is expected to introduce a Medicare-for-All bill in the coming weeks.
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As the national healthcare debate rages in the wake of the GOP's TrumpCare disaster, universal healthcare advocates have identified an opening to advance the long-held goal of enacting a single-payer (or similar) system—one that truly provides coverage for all.

Signs this week suggest that opening is getting wider. One bright spot was Sen. Bernie Sanders' (I-Vt.) announcement over the weekend that he will soon introduce a Medicare-for-All bill in the U.S. Senate. Other promising signals included:

1. To much fanfare,  a California lawmaker on Thursday unveiled details about Senate Bill 562, or the "Healthy California Act," a single-payer proposal to create universal health coverage (including inpatient, outpatient, emergency care, dental, vision, mental health, and nursing home care) for every California resident. 

"With Republicans' failure to repeal the Affordable Care Act, Californians really get what is at stake with their healthcare," said Democratic state Sen. Ricardo Lara, who is co-sponsoring the bill along with state Sen. Toni G. Atkins (D-San Diego). "We have the chance to make universal healthcare a reality now. It's time to talk about how we get to healthcare for all that covers more and costs less."

"At a time of critical disarray of our national healthcare system, California can once again lead the nation," said RoseAnn DeMoro, executive director of the California Nurses Association and National Nurses United (NNU), both of which are supporting the legislation. "This bill will set a standard in America and be a catalyst for the nation."

SB 562 also has the support of Physicians for a National Health Program, which published its own analysis of the proposal.

2. The Huffington Post reports that "[t]he push to implement a 'Medicare-for-All'-type system in New York state just took a significant step forward Wednesday."

The push came in the form of support from state Sen. Jeffrey Klein, who heads the Independent Democratic Conference (IDC) in the New York state Senate. As the last remaining hold-out in his caucus, Klein's backing "gives the measure the unanimous support of the IDC, a crucial, and often recalcitrant, bloc of lawmakers," according to HuffPo

While the IDC's support won't be enough to propel the bill to victory, it is "a critical development in the push for single-payer healthcare," the outlet said, and it indicates growing mainstream momentum for such an idea.

"In the wake of [President Donald] Trump being elected, the issue of healthcare has moved to the top of the agenda for a lot of people," Assemblyman Jeffrey Dinowitz, a Democrat representing the Bronx, told HuffPo, which further noted: "If both California and New York can implement a single-payer heathcare system in the next few years...something like a fifth of the country will be covered just by those two states."

3. Progressive luminary Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) voiced support for single payer on two separate occasions in the last week, first at a town hall meeting last Friday and again when pressed by a reporter on Monday. Warren, who appears Friday evening in Boston with staunch single-payer supporter Sanders, told MassLive that "single-payer sure ought to be at the top of the list" if the country starts from scratch on healthcare reform following this month's American Healthcare Act (AHCA) implosion.

4. Warren isn't the only lawmaker whose support for universal coverage is more forthcoming these days.

Vox reported this week:

During the last two years of Barack Obama's presidency, Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.) could only find 62 other House Democrats willing to co-sponsor his single-payer healthcare proposal—which would expand Medicare to cover every American.

But just two months into the new Congress, Conyers's team has already signed up 78 co-sponsors for the exact same single-payer bill. More are expected to come on board in the next two weeks. At this point in the last Congress, only 48 Democratic House members had signed on to the bill.

"There's more of an appetite for an alternative now," Rep. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.), a sponsor of Conyers' bill, told Vox reporter Jeff Stein. "Democrats have a new confidence to push for a single-payer system. The momentum is building."

5. Saturday, April 1 will see March for Health events taking place nationwide. While the demonstrations are lower-profile than other recent and upcoming marches (for women, for Native people, for science), they are taking place in a number of cities from coast to coast. Find one near you here, and follow online under the hashtag #MarchforHealth:

 

April 1, 2017