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Building the Path to Medicare for All

Democrats Have An Historic Opportunity To Advance FDR’s Vision For Universal, Guaranteed Health Care
Common Dreams
July 14, 2021
By Nancy Altman

FDR, his Labor Secretary Frances Perkins, and their allies had a much broader definition of Social Security than the one we use today. They understood the term as a synonym for economic security. They knew that to ensure economic security, all of us need the assurance that if faced with an illness, we or our loved ones will receive high-quality treatment as a guaranteed right.

They understood that to be economically secure, all of us must have universal, guaranteed health care as our birthright. Today’s Democrats appropriately proclaim that health care should be a right, not a privilege. Now is the moment to walk the walk, to add action to the rhetoric.

Democrats have the opportunity to pass a package that takes the next big step in that direction. The following Medicare and Medicaid improvements are being debated as you read these words:

  1. Creating an out-of-pocket cap in Medicare, because no one should go bankrupt trying to pay for health care.
  2. Adding the essential benefits of vision, hearing, and dental care to Medicare.
  3. Lowering the Medicare eligibility age to 60, as Medicare’s architects anticipated and as President Biden promised in his campaign.
  4. Empowering Medicare to negotiate lower prescription drug prices not just for seniors and people with disabilities but for everyone in America.
  5. Allowing people to remain in their homes, rather than forced into institutions, by funding home and community-based long-term care.

Each of these steps would make Americans more economically secure, and enormously improve our lives. It exemplifies the promise to build back better.

Comment by Eagan Kemp

Nancy Altman, the President of Social Security Works–a staunch ally in the fight for Medicare for All–highlights how crucially important it is for Congress to improve and expand Medicare, while also lowering the cost of prescription drugs and improving access to home and community based long-term care in the next reconciliation package.

While these steps are important on their own, they also help us think about how we move from the fragmented health care system we have now to the health care system we truly need, Medicare for All.

The reality is that most people are fed up with the health care system and are ready for things to change. The question is then how do we change it.

Given the limitations of the current Congress and President Biden’s opposition to Medicare for All, how do we make progress on health care without making the situation worse?

Taking steps to reduce corporate power in health care while strengthening public programs is a good place to start. While these reforms aren’t perfect, they help us push back on the corporate onslaughts on Medicare and, if crafted correctly, will also take a bite out of prescription drugmakers’ power.

Getting these reforms over the finish line will mean relief for millions of Americans but will still take a lot of work, as corporate lobbyists fight to water them down.

But make no mistake, the fight for Medicare for All must continue, regardless of whether these interim measures pass. It will take the largest grassroots mobilization in decades to finally guarantee health care for everyone in the U.S.

Luckily, those fighting for Medicare for All haven’t lost focus. Over 20 municipalities passed Medicare for All Resolutions in recent months and many more are working to do so soon. Additionally, the Medicare for All bill in the House just added its 118th cosponsor, highlighting the progress that we continue to make in Congress. And with hearings on Medicare for All forthcoming in both the House and Senate, the support within Congress will continue to deepen.

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