CP photo by Ryan Deto
Republicans in the U.S. Senate are currently in the throes of another attempt to repeal the Affordable Care Act
, this time behind a bill written by Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-La.). International financial-research firm Fitch Ratings calls this attempt “the most disruptive repeal plan to date” as it would end protections for people with pre-existing conditions and would lead to a large reduction in Medicaid funding. Several GOP senators have shared concerns about this bill, including Pennsylvania Sen. Pat Toomey
(R-Lehigh), but only one, Sen. Rand Paul (R-Kentucky) is a hard no, leaving the door open to the 50 votes
necessary for a repeal.
All Senate Democrats are, unsurprisingly, opposed to this bill, and a growing share of them are actually offering their support to the near opposite of the GOP’s health-care bill: a single-payer health-care law. Single-payer would provide health-care coverage to everyone in a program similar to Medicare, which is available only to seniors. The left wing of the Democratic Party is abuzz with news that U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders’ (I-Vt.) “Medicare for All” bill has garnered the support of 16 Democratic senators, more than a third of Senate Democrats, but notably, not Pennsylvania Sen. Bob Casey (D-Scranton).
But under the radar, support for a single-payer plan has been steadily growing in the U.S. House, with a majority of house Democrats supporting it, including every U.S. congressperson from Pennsylvania.
U.S. Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.) has introduced his Medicare for All bill
in every session of the U.S. House since the 108th U.S. Congress in 2003. It started with only 39 co-sponsors, and only one from Pennsylvania, former U.S. Rep. Chaka Fattah (D-Phila.). In 2005, Conyers' bill received 79 co-sponsors, including three Pennsylvania reps, including U.S. Rep. Mike Doyle
In an interview with Pittsburgh City Paper
, Doyle said his support for Conyers' single-payer bill doesn’t mean he supports repealing the ACA. “I don’t want us to lose focus on stabilizing the ACA
first,” said Doyle. “But it makes no sense to me that our country does not provide a basic set of benefits for everyone.”
Since 2005, Doyle has co-sponsored Conyers' bill every session, and support for the bill has only grown since. Conyers' most recent version, introduced in January, now has 118 co-sponsors, which is more than 60 percent of House Democrats. Doyle, along with Bob Brady (D-Phila.), Brendan Boyle (D-Phila.), Matthew Cartwright (D-Lackawanna) and Dwight Evans (D-Phila.) form Pennsylvania’s House support for single-payer health care. This group constitutes all five Democratic members of Pennsylvania's U.S. House representation.
Doyle said people should not be afraid of the term single-payer, since Conyers' bill will still provide a market for people who want to purchase supplemental private insurance. Doyle said he doesn’t agree with everything in Conyers' bill, but backs it because he believes everyone is entitled to health coverage, and that a serious discussion should take place on how to achieve that goal.
He said it makes more business sense to have a single-payer system, since many people without health insurance receive treatment in emergency rooms, instead of from primary-care physicians.
“We kind of have single-payer now, it’s called the emergency room, and we are paying five times as much compared to primary care,” said Doyle. “The reality is that every American should have access to a primary-care doctor. And no one should suffer catastrophic loss of money due to health care.”
Doyle said he doesn't understand the demagoguery around single-payer, particularly because Medicare, a single-payer system for seniors, has pretty widespread support. “You don't hear Republicans saying Medicare is a horrible thing and we should abolish it,” said Doyle.
He believes that as the single-payer discussion continues, the approach will become more popular. According to a June Pew Research poll
, 33 percent of Americans now support single-payer health care, compared with 21 percent in March 2014. The poll also indicated that a majority of likely Democratic voters (52 percent) support single-payer.
“The more people understand it, the more they realize it is a good way forward,” said Doyle.