The Congresswoman Who Wrote the Medicare for All Bill Is Sick of Democrats' Lies

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If you are a Medicare for All supporter, the recent discourse on the topic might have given you such high blood pressure that you’ve had to turn to our nightmare healthcare industry to fix it.

But maybe this will soothe you: Rep. Pramila Jayapal, the author of the House Medicare for All bill—which many advocates consider superior to the Senate version introduced by Sanders—published an op-ed in the Washington Post today calling out the most common lies told about the policy by both the healthcare industry and prominent Democrats.

Op-eds written by politicians are usually boring at best and infuriating at worst, but Jayapal’s is clear, convincing, and thorough. She goes after four separate attacks leveled against Medicare for All: First, that Americans love their private insurance; second, that Americans will pay more because of taxes; third, that unions hate it; and fourth, that it’s comparable to Republican efforts to repeal the ACA.


She also notes that Medicare for All would be the most effective way to bring down America’s absurd healthcare costs, since it would give the government immense negotiating power in setting prices and provider payments, and argues that Democrats should stop using industry talking points to attack the policy, like that it would close hospitals.

Take her criticism of the argument that Americans love their private insurance:

First, it is a myth that Americans love private insurance. The vast majority of Americans are deeply frustrated with the health-care system — even if they have private insurance. Opponents and pundits often quote polling that suggests support for Medicare-for-all drops when you tell people that their private insurance plan would go away. But when polls accurately describe Medicare-for-all, and explain that you can keep your doctor or hospital, the majority support increases. People are happy to get rid of private insurance; they just want to know they can keep their doctors and hospitals, even if they switch or lose their jobs. Medicare-for-all would let them do so.

This is true, though I’d also note that in general the polling is far less convincing than pundits make it out to be. A poll is not an election, first of all, and people tend to follow what their parties support. But an NPR poll found that even when you ask people if they support a plan that would replace government insurance with private insurance, support only goes down to 41 percent. That seems well within the range of persuadability. 55 percent of self-described Democratic “moderates” support it, and 64 percent of Democrats overall.

But Democrats do not need a majority of public opinion to support them on every issue to win the election, and they shouldn’t seek it. They should seek to energize a coalition that has been left behind—the voters that didn’t turn out in 2016, for example. The conventional wisdom among centrists that Democrats simply must chase the Sacred White Moderate is not only false, it’s ideologically motivated. And I’d love to see the media ask the candidates who oppose Medicare for All about the poll Jayapal referenced, instead of just asking the ones who support it about the polls framed by Republican arguments against the policy.


Jayapal also noted that the framing of the question around taxes and Medicare for All. Focusing on the potential tax increase on middle class families, which is probably needed to pay for the policy, is ridiculous without also noting that almost all of families’ healthcare costs would evaporate. Americans would no longer pay deductibles, premiums, co-pays, or more than $200 in drug costs per year, and the four percent income tax in Sanders’ plan would be implemented progressively. Some helpful nerds have even produced a calculator to help figure out if your costs would go up or down; according to the calculator, a family making the median household income with average health costs would save $3,798 per year.

And, regardless, the benefit would be that in exchange for a small tax increase, every single person would have healthcare. It’s hard to measure the benefits of that in dollars and cents; you could instead measure it in human lives saved, or more hours spent with family instead of fighting with insurance or struggling with illnesses that go untreated without healthcare.


It’s ironic that Jayapal’s op-ed appeared alongside an editorial by the Post, a screed against “ideological grandiosity,” the ‘Better Things Aren’t Possible’ tweet expanded into newspaper copy. The editorial argued that Medicare for All does not meet a “baseline degree of factual plausibility,” because it “cannot deliver a system that provides far more benefits than other single-payer systems they claim as their model while preserving the level of care and access that insured Americans currently enjoy.”

That’s right, it wouldn’t preserve that level of care or access: It would vastly improve it. Introduce me to a privately-insured American who right now has no premiums, deductibles, co-pays, dental costs, hearing costs, or vision costs, less than $200 in drug costs, and who also can see any doctor they choose because they have no networks, and I’ll give you $100 right now. It’s also a stunningly clear argument for preserving the class position of those who currently are surviving our system: you frightful poor people can’t have better healthcare—or healthcare at all—if there’s even a slight chance that my care might get worse.


It’s disheartening every day to see such blatant misunderstandings of Medicare for All propagated by the Democrats and the media. And it’s telling that the Post’s attacks said nothing of people who are currently struggling right now. If you’re going to criticize Medicare for All on the grounds that it might upend your more privileged position in the healthcare system, you should have to do it to the face of a person whose child died because they rationed their insulin, or who had to divorce their Alzheimer’s-patient partner in order to access Medicaid. 

Instead, they get to do it from the safe, comfortable, and powerful post of a national newspaper editorial board. Cool system we got here.

Splinter politics writer.

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