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By Christine Rousselle, CNA, Mar 1, 2019
– Pro-life and pro-abortion advocates have responded to a bill introduced Thursday which would radically transform health care in the United States and provide government funding for abortion services through Medicare expansion.
The Medicare for All Act of 2019 was introduced February 28 by Reps. Pramila Jayapal (D-WA) and Debbie Dingell (D-MI). The bill is co-sponsored by more than 100 House Democrats. Jayapal is also the co-chair of the House Progressive Caucus.
In a statement published to her website, Dingell said that “the time is now to ensure every American has access to quality, affordable health care,” and that this bill is a “critical step in this long journey.”
If the bill were to become law, the federal government would effectively remake the healthcare system, banning private insurance plans. Under its provisions, all citizens would be covered and would receive most primary care free at the point of use, not paying costs out-of-pocket for care including vision, dental, and long-term care.
The bill also aims to introduce universal “comprehensive reproductive health” coverage for women, including abortions. It is unclear what the scope of abortion provisions would be, or if doctors would be able to refuse to participate in abortions if they are morally opposed to the procedure.
Representatives from Dingell’s office did not reply to CNA’s request for comment in time for publication.
Currently, federal law prohibits Medicare money from paying for abortion services via the Hyde Amendment, but some states have programs that assist low-income women with affording abortions. Some private insurance policies cover, or partially cover, abortion services.
The Medicare for All bill would require the Hyde Amendment to be repealed.
Abortion advocates have expressed enthusiastic support for the bill’s inclusion of abortion services.
“Representative Jayapal has been an unwavering champion for women and reproductive freedom and we applaud her leadership today,” NARAL Pro-Choice America president and CEO Ilyse Hogue said in a statement.
“Rep. Jayapal’s Medicare for All proposal recognizes the simple truth that women will never be equal members in society until we have full access to reproductive healthcare. Put simply, a right is not a right if you cannot access it.”
Tom Shakely, the chief engagement officer at Americans United For Life, underscored the need to retain the Hyde amendment and prevent government funds from being used for abortions. He also told CNA that he was concerned by the bill’s aim to ban private insurance, noting the it could have serious consequences for healthcare choice and accountability.
“Every American of goodwill endorses medical care for all persons who need care, but Medicare for All’s regressive approach would create a single and unaccountable government monopoly on healthcare,” Shakely told CNA in a statement.
“We would never want the U.S. Postal Service to be granted a monopoly over the delivery of all goods in America. Take that principle and apply it to healthcare, if you’re not certain of how you feel about Medicare for All.”