The Blog of the Frances Perkins Center

“Medicare for All” bill, HR 676, reintroduced

In Legislation Today, New Deal Legislation, Political world on January 30, 2009 at 11:32 am

Rep. John Conyers reintroduced HR 676  on Monday, and the bill already has at least 33 co-sponsors, including Maine’s freshman Congresswoman, Chellie Pingree.* Known as the “United States National Health Care Act” or the “Expanded and Improved Medicare for All Act” proposal, the new version has some significant improvements over its version in the 110th Congress, in which it had 93 co-sponsors.

In an excellent blog post at DailyKos, Action Time for Single Payer Healthcare, blogger SarahLee gives lots of information about the bill and urges support for it.

The California Nurses Association, which has been working hard on this topic, released a study last week showing the economic impact of the proposal.

Establishing a national single-payer style healthcare reform system would provide a major stimulus for the U.S. economy by creating 2.6 million new jobs, and infusing $317 billion in new business and public revenues, with another $100 billion in wages into the U.S. economy, according to the findings of a groundbreaking study released today.

The study, found here, refutes the commonly held belief that such a plan would be too expensive, particularly at this time of economic difficulty.

But, as Paul Krugman says in his Op Ed in yesterday’s New York Times, “Health Care Now,”

Paul Krugman (Fred R. Conrad/NY Times)
Paul Krugman (Fred R. Conrad/NY Times)

The whole world is in recession. But the United States is the only wealthy country in which the economic catastrophe will also be a health care catastrophe — in which millions of people will lose their health insurance along with their jobs, and therefore lose access to essential care.

Krugman examines potential reasons for the Obama administration holding off on introducing health care reform:

Finally — and this is, I suspect, the real reason for the administration’s health care silence — there’s the political argument that this is a bad time to be pushing fundamental health care reform, because the nation’s attention is focused on the economic crisis. But if history is any guide, this argument is precisely wrong.

Don’t take my word for it. Rahm Emanuel, the White House chief of staff, has declared that “you never want a serious crisis to go to waste.” Indeed. F.D.R. was able to enact Social Security in part because the Great Depression highlighted the need for a stronger social safety net. And the current crisis presents a real opportunity to fix the gaping holes that remain in that safety net, especially with regard to health care.

Frances Perkins always looked on universal health care as the unfinished piece of her legacy. By the time FDR was ready to consider it, the industrial build up to World War II had begun, workers were in high demand, and employers began offering health insurance as a benefit to entice job applicants. The need seemed to have diminished, and Roosevelt knew he had a big fight on his hands over the coming war and didn’t want to expend political capital elsewhere.

Someone born that year is now well into retirement age and receiving social security. But for that person’s children and grandchildren, health insurance may still be out of reach.

*Full disclosure department: Chellie Pingree is my former boss and an advisor to the Frances Perkins Center.

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