Hearings on universal healthcare legislation will finally commence in the U.S. House of Representatives, long a goal of the Democratic Party, after Speaker Nancy Pelosi signaled her support for the move, according to The Washington Post.
“It’s a huge step forward to have the speaker’s support,” said Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), who will be the House sponsor of the legislation, usually denoted as HR 676. “We have to push on the inside while continuing to build support for this on the outside.”
Some version of universal health care has been a Democratic goal for decades. The Expanded and Improved Medicare for All Act, first introduced in 2003 by then-Rep. John Conyers Jr. of Michigan, has become the vehicle for Democrats who want to bring single-payer, Canada-style health care to the United States.
But even when Democrats held the majority, that legislation was set aside, the Post noted: “in 2009 and 2010, when the House passed the Affordable Care Act, the “Medicare-for-All” package was not part of the discussion.”
Pelosi, who had been one of those co-sponsors, said throughout the 2018 campaign that Democrats were free to discuss many other health-care programs. She strongly suggested that a Democratic House would at least hold hearings on the far-reaching Jayapal bill; on Wednesday, Jayapal got Pelosi’s commitment to hearings in the Rules and Budget committees.
With Democrats locked out of power in the Senate and the White House, Jayapal said that supporters of universal health care were proceeding “one step at a time” and that getting the first real hearings on the bill — for years, it has been aspirational, and not even subject to a Congressional Budget Office score — would force a larger discussion.