Does the New House Medicare-for-All Matter?

Mar 5, 2019 / Amanda Chase, Horsesmouth Assistant Editor

Members of the House last week offered their version of a “Medicare-for-all” bill that is broader than what’s been put forth by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), whose 2016 presidential run pushed the issue into the political mainstream. In many ways, the proposal sounds familiar: The government would establish a health plan that pays for basically all forms of medical care for all citizens. But there are difference, too, some of which would affect seniors in particular.

The biggest difference: This House vision of Medicare-for-all would also cover long-term care. That isn’t part of the Sanders bill, and it is not covered by Medicare. But for people with disabilities and the elderly, it’s a significant benefit—and one that can get very expensive to pay for out-of-pocket. (The Affordable Care Act included a long-term care provision that was eventually scrapped because of its high cost.)

The House bill also would take a swipe at high prices for prescription drugs by empowering the government to negotiate prices directly with manufacturers and to take away and reissue drug patents if such efforts faltered. This idea, known as “compulsory licensing,” has appeared in drug-pricing bills, but not in other Medicare-for-all legislation.

Robert Blendon, a health care pollster at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, pointed out that addressing concerns such as the long-term care benefit could add to the measure’s political muscle. It could make the idea more attractive to older voters, who otherwise might be hesitant to change their coverage but who do turn out disproportionately to vote in primaries.

Read the full analysis at Kaiser Health News.


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