House “Medicare for All” Bill Tears Down Walls
THE TORCH: CONTENTSBy Sonya Schwartz, NILC Senior Policy Attorney
FEBRUARY 27, 2019
As the Medicare for All proposal is introduced and begins its passage through the U.S. House of Representatives, people outraged by the Trump administration’s obsession with building a wall should pay close attention. Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-WA) and more than 100 cosponsors want to do more than stop a border wall; they want to build an America where everyone can thrive. Their legislation envisions a country where all would have access to health care — and that includes U.S. citizens and noncitizen immigrants, both documented and undocumented.
The introduction of the House Medicare for All bill is a moment in our country’s history worth celebrating for several reasons:
It’s the most inclusive federal health care expansion proposal on the table. The bill is inclusive of all immigrants, documented and undocumented, along with citizens, and unequivocally states that the secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) shall “ensure that every person in the United States has access to health care.” Other “health care for all” proposals would limit coverage to certain documented immigrants or delegate the decision about who would be included to the secretary of HHS.
It’s the best way to reject President Trump’s equation of worth with wealth and whiteness. Just as important, the approach taken by Rep. Jayapal is the best way to reject Trump’s equation of worth with wealth and whiteness. She and her colleagues would use the law to ensure that Trump, or some future Trump, will never again abuse the power of the presidency to build a bureaucratic wall — based on immigration status, national origin, language, race, or faith — between a person and the health care they need. “All” would mean all.
Ensuring access to health care for all benefits everyone. Car accidents don’t happen only to U.S. citizens. And childhood asthma doesn’t affect only kids with green cards. We all face these and other health challenges, and improving health outcomes for the nation as a whole depends on ensuring that we all can get the care we need.
There are dramatic health consequences to being uninsured, and access to health care coverage improves health and saves lives. Communities with high rates of uninsurance face health system impacts, residents are more likely to have unmet health care needs, vital services are less likely to be available, and more hospitals are likely to close.
Access to health care coverage also has positive economic benefits, reducing both health and non–health-related debt, enabling people to spend more in local economies, and increasing workplace productivity and economic output.
State efforts to provide health care to everyone regardless of immigration status only go so far. California, Illinois, Massachusetts, New York, Oregon, Washington, and the District of Columbia use their own state funds to provide health care coverage to children regardless of immigration status. California and New York have active efforts to cover all adults regardless of immigration status as well. However, at the end of the day, state efforts to fill gaps left by federal policies will go only so far.
This is a vital, basic issue involving all of us that’s crying out for a federal solution.