72% of the voters supported Medicare for All. In exit polls conducted by Fox News, 72% of the voters were in favor of a "government run healthcare plan" despite the fact that Fox deliberately chose the most polarizing way to frame the question. This is consistent with other polls conducted among both Democratic and Republican voters during the primary season.
Even though the Democrats lost seats in Congress, not a single Cosponsor of the Medicare for All Act was defeated. Medicare for All was a winning issue in this year's Congressional races. Even Medicare for All supporters in swing districts, like Katie Porter in Orange County California, were re-elected while swing district opponents went down in defeat.
More than 14 million American have lost their health insurance since March. The COVID depression has eliminated employment based health coverage for over 14 million people. This is in addition to the 2.3 million who lost their insurance during the first 3 years of the Trump administration.
The COVID depression is making it urgently clear to unions why we need to take healthcare off the bargaining table. Despite heroic efforts to keep their members covered during the shutdown, union health funds are running out of money as the economic crisis extends into 2021. Continuing shortfalls in state and local government revenues will threaten millions of jobs and increase pressure on public sector unions to negotiate major concessions on healthcare benefits.
The Medical Industrial Complex is already mobilizing to shape the healthcare policy of the Biden Administration. In this election cycle, Big Pharma shifted much of its political contributions from the Republican to the Democratic Party. Within hours of Biden being declared the winner of the election, AHIP--the health insurance industry lobbying group--sent a letter of congratulations to President-elect Biden.
President Biden will not support Medicare for All. Not only did he vow to veto Medicare for All legislation during this year's primary debates, in his 36 years as a U.S. Senator, he never once co-sponsored single-payer legislation, despite strong initiatives led by Senator Kennedy in the 1970s and Senator Wellstone in the 1990s.
President Biden's proposed "public option" will be ineffective and will face massive resistance from healthcare profiteers. Allowing individuals and employers to purchase a Medicare-like health insurance product in a healthcare marketplace will not address the distortions and inequalities of our commodified healthcare system nor would it break the link between healthcare and employment. By its nature, it cannot achieve the efficiencies and cost savings of a Medicare for All solution. Nonetheless, the medical industrial complex is likely to pull out all stops to defeat it as they did in Connecticut in 2019.
President Biden's proposed lowering of the Medicare eligibility age to 60 would make it available to 20 million additional Americans but Medicare itself needs to be expanded and improved. Decreasing the eligibility age for Medicare would increase the healthcare security for millions without undermining the social insurance model that sustains Medicare. However, Medicare itself has significant gaps in coverage and needs to be modernized and improved to eliminate the necessity of private supplemental insurance while enhancing prescription drug coverage and adding dental, long term care and other essential services. Medicare for All bills like HR 1384 do exactly that and these improvements should be incorporated into any proposed expansion legislation.
The Supreme Court could very well disrupt the politics of healthcare in the coming year. President Biden has premised his healthcare policies on a strengthened Affordable Care Act. The ACA has already been decimated by four years of Trump administration attacks. The Supreme Court decision--due in June of 2021--while unlikely to overturn the entire ACA, could severely limit its scope. This will increase the pressure for a long-term, comprehensive solution to America's healthcare crisis.
Political gridlock may be great for Wall Street but it's hell on America's working families. While Wall Street booms in anticipation of a divided Congress, little relief is in sight for working class Americans. The Health Care Emergency Guarantee Act could provide help to almost every American whether they are insured or uninsured, working or unemployed and would be a huge stimulus for the economy. Congress needs to put aside its partisan differences and enact this and other essential relief legislation as America enters the "long dark winter" of the COVID depression.