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New Medicare-for-All Caucus Declares Single-Payer Healthcare Not 'Some Crazy Idea'

Progressive Democrats of America hold a news conference to announce the launch of a Medicare for All Caucus at the Capitol on July 19, 2018. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call via AP Images)

WASHINGTON – Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.) said more Democrats are uniting around the “common conviction” that Medicare for all is a “human right,” emphasizing that universal single-payer healthcare “isn’t some crazy idea.”

“Our goal is to sponsor briefings in this caucus on a variety of topics from the basics of Medicare for all to financing to universal systems around the world, because it’s important that Americans understand this isn’t some crazy idea — it’s an idea that has actually been very successful in moving the economics forward in countries around the world,” Jayapal said on Thursday at the official launch of the new “Medicare for All” Caucus, which has 66 members so far.

Calling Obamacare a step in the right direction, Rep. Debbie Dingell (D-Mich.) said it’s time for the U.S. to adopt a Medicare-for-all system as a “competitive issue” with other countries.

“We are the only industrialized nation in the world that does not have healthcare for all, period. Our companies are competing with other countries that were smart enough to have done this a very long time ago,” she said. “So we’re all going to keep in this together.”

Rep. Mark Pocan (D-Wis.) said that many people working two part-time jobs are currently not able to afford to purchase a health insurance plan, but they should be covered.

“If members of Congress can have healthcare, everyone should have healthcare. And with the formation of this caucus, we can make sure this is reality,” Pocan said at the press conference.

Rep. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.), who represents Silicon Valley, argued that everyone should have healthcare coverage automatically from the day they are born. He applauded Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) for “changing the debate” in the U.S. on Medicare for all.

“They shouldn’t have to fill out paperwork. They shouldn’t have to worry about fighting with a bureaucrat to get insurance. They shouldn’t have to worry about applications being lost. They should have healthcare,” he said. “It’s pro-economic growth, it’s pro-jobs and it’s pro-innovation because if our economy is changing and you need to get a new job, you need to make sure you have healthcare.”

Following the press conference, PJM caught up with Rep. Mark Walker (R-N.C.), chairman of the conservative Republican Study Committee, and asked for his thoughts on the growing support for Medicare for all among Democratic lawmakers.

“I don’t think the bulk of Democrats want to touch that vote. It’s kind of like voting to abolish ICE. You would not get half of the House Democrats to support Medicare for all, and my take is they would not want to come close to making that vote,” Walker said.

When asked about Democratic support for raising taxes on wealthy Americans to pay for Medicare for all, as Sanders has suggested, Walker responded, “The wealthy has the highest tax bracket. We’ve raised the tax brackets on the wealthy to pay for a lot of other things. Mathematically it would work, but at which point do you draw the line?”