Five Texas lawmakers back renewed push for Medicare for All

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Five members of Congress from Texas are among the 112 co-sponsors backing the renewed push for Medicare for All in the U.S. House. Congressional Progressive Caucus Pramila Jayapal (D-WA) reintroduced the legislation for a single-payer national healthcare system on Wednesday. 

Jayapal also introduced the bill in 2019, but it died in committee after multiple hearings and a vote was never held on the House floor — the same outcome faced by the Senate version introduced by Sen. Bernie Sanders that year. Its reintroduction to the House marks a year since COVID-19 cases were confirmed in all 50 states.

In a prepared statement Wednesday touting the return of the bill, Jayapal said the pandemic shined a light on America’s for-profit health care system and said that even before the pandemic, nearly half of all adults under the age of 65 were uninsured or underinsured. 

“There is a solution to this health crisis — a popular one that guarantees health care to every person as a human right and finally puts people over profits and care over corporations,” Jayapal said. “That solution is Medicare for All — everyone in, nobody out — and I am proud to introduce it today alongside a powerful movement across America.”

The legislation is being backed by more than half the House Democratic Caucus, 14 committee chairs, and five Texans; Reps. Lloyd Doggett of Austin, Veronica Escobar of El Paso, Al Green and Shelia Jackson Lee of Houston, and Marc Veasey of Dallas. 

Rep. Vicente Gonzalez, an original co-sponsor of Medicare for All in 2019, was noticeably absent from the list of initial backers on Wednesday. A member of the conservative-centrist Blue Dog Democrat caucus, Gonzales narrowly won reelection in his Rio Grande Valley district where margins swung by 18 percentage points in favor of Republicans. 

Under the health care proposal, Medicare, a popular national health insurance program currently only available to Americans aged 65 and older, would be expanded to the broader public. It would model healthcare systems seen in other countries, such as Canada’s Medicare system or the United Kingdom’s National Health Service. A Congressional Budget Office analysis of a number of different single-payer healthcare options estimates that federal spending for healthcare would increase between $1.5 trillion to $3 trillion by 2030, but overall national health expenditures would see a decrease of $.7 trillion or a slight increase of $.3 trillion by 2030.

Texas faces the highest number of uninsured residents in the nation, as well as the highest uninsured rate. The state’s healthcare crisis — deepened by the refusal of Texas Republicans to expand Medicaid through available Affordable Care Act dollars — has resulted in the pandemic devastating the state’s uninsured population. 

A recent study by the nonprofit consumer health advocacy group Families USA found that a majority of cases and deaths from COVID-19 in Texas were tied to the health insurance gap. The study estimated that between January to August 2020, 7,457 deaths in Texas, or 57 percent of deaths from the virus at the time, were linked to a lack of healthcare insurance. 

Photo: Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call

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