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A Big Hearing For ‘Medicare-For-All’ — In A Small Room

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The first congressional listening to on a “Medicare-for-all” invoice in not less than a decade passed off Tuesday, however with out the standard phalanx of T-shirted supporters — and even the presidential candidates — who’ve been pushing the invoice.

That’s as a result of the listening to passed off not at one in every of three main committees that oversee well being coverage within the House, however within the ornate — and relatively miniature — listening to room of the House Rules Committee. That panel’s main function is to set the phrases for House ground debates, and its listening to room can seat about 50 folks within the viewers, in contrast with tons of within the bigger rooms of the Capitol complicated’s workplace buildings. Also, members of the general public can’t simply entry the room on the third ground of the Capitol as they’ll the House workplace buildings throughout the road.

That association was no accident — the Rules Committee is usually referred to as the “Speaker’s Committee” as a result of it’s so carefully aligned with the speaker’s targets and is extra closely populated with members of the bulk social gathering than the standard committee breakdowns. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has mentioned repeatedly she doesn’t need to push Medicare-for-all — a plan fashionable amongst progressive Democrats to maneuver the nation to authorities well being care system — whereas Republicans management the Senate and the White House.

So, this listening to was the success of a promise she made to among the extra left-leaning members of her caucus when she courted them to assist her candidacy for speaker. Another listening to, this one by the House Budget Committee — additionally not among the many committees that will usually deal with main well being laws, is anticipated to comply with quickly.

Those regular panels — Ways and Means, Energy and Commerce, and Education and Labor — are busy engaged on well being laws, together with payments to handle prescription drug costs and “surprise” medical payments, however not at present on a Medicare-for-all invoice.

Rep. Michael Burgess (R-Texas) identified that anomaly. “I don’t want to say this hearing isn’t normal, but normally, health care policy would come … through the authorizing committees,” he mentioned in a gibe to the House Democratic management. Burgess can be a member of a type of committees: Energy and Commerce.

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Pelosi did make a cameo on the Rules listening to, escorting activist Ady Barkan, who has the neurodegenerative illness amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or ALS, and was the star witness for the proponents of Medicare-for-all. Barkan, an outspoken critic of Republicans’ efforts to repeal and exchange the Affordable Care Act in 2017, testified Tuesday by computer-generated voice, since his illness has progressed to the purpose he can now not communicate simply.

Still, regardless of the bizarre venue, backers of common well being care hope the listening to marks the start of a journey to a brand new nationwide well being system.

“This is a historic moment,” Rules Chairman Jim McGovern (D-Mass.) mentioned, surveying the standing-room-only crowd. “I don’t think we can squeeze anyone else in here.” McGovern mentioned he’s a powerful supporter of the Medicare-for-all bill launched by Reps. Pramila Jayapal (D-Calif.) and Debbie Dingell (D-Mich.), which has greater than 100 co-sponsors.

For all of the political machinations and generally overheated rhetoric a couple of main overhaul of the U.S. well being system, the listening to itself was remarkably unremarkable — with witnesses each for and towards the thought of the federal authorities offering well being protection to all Americans calmly discussing the professionals and cons.

“The ugly truth is this: Health care is not treated as a human right in the United States of America,” Barkan informed the committee. “This fact is outrageous. And it is far past time that we change it.”

Republicans had been additionally keen to speak about Medicare-for-all — so they may bash it.

“This bill is an extraordinary bill,” mentioned Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.), the panel’s rating member. “It would completely change America’s health care system. And not for the better.”

And whereas probably the most enthusiastic backers of the invoice weren’t within the listening to room, they weren’t distant.

More than 300 members of the California Nurses Association/National Nurses United, one of many unions that has been pushing Medicare-for-all for years, watched the listening to from an overflow room within the Cannon House Office Building and visited places of work to attempt to gin up assist, mentioned co-President Malinda Markowitz.

Markowitz mentioned she was optimistic in regards to the path ahead for the measure. “We’re going to continue to go to legislators that aren’t supporting this and let them know we’re not letting them off the hook,” she mentioned.

Republicans need the controversy to proceed in Congress, too. They hope they’ll stoke worry of a authorities takeover of well being care that can work to their benefit within the subsequent election.

The prime Republicans on the House Ways and Means Committee on Tuesday wrote to Chairman Richard Neal (D-Mass.) urging him to schedule a listening to on the invoice. “A public accounting of H.R. 1384 is necessary to inform the working families and seniors we represent to the risks of their health coverage under this proposal,” mentioned rating Republican on the total committee, Rep. Kevin Brady (Texas), and the well being subcommittee, Rep. Devin Nunes (Calif.).

That is outwardly effective with Neal. In a short interview Tuesday, he mentioned his committee “likely would” maintain a listening to within the present Congress. “I think we should have a full-throttle debate” about Medicare-for-all, he mentioned.

Use Our Content This story might be republished without cost (details).

Julie Rovner: jrovner@kff.org”>jrovner@kff.org, @jrovner

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