March 19, 2021
House Democrats Reintroduce Medicare for All Legislation
On March 17, House Democrats introduced ‘Medicare for All’ legislation that would provide a blueprint for a government-run single-payer system that would eliminate most private health insurance.
The main sponsor of the bill is Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-WA-7), and the bill is co-sponsored by over 100 House Democrats. As introduced, the bill, H.R. 1976, does not provide a plan for the financing of the new system. This legislation is similar to Medicare for All legislation introduced in past Congresses.
The proposal would create a two-year transformation of Medicare into a universal single-payer system, eliminating the age threshold for Medicare eligibility. The plan would expand Medicare coverage to include prescription drugs, dental and vision services, maternal care, and long-term care without charging co-pays, premiums or deductibles.
Last month, members of the American Society of Anesthesiologists (ASA) Executive Committee (EC) and ASA’s lobbying team met with key Committees and House and Senate leadership staff to discuss health care priorities, including Medicare for All. In particular, the EC met with staff of the House Congressional Progressive Caucus – the driving force behind “Medicare for All”—to express concern about the impact of the proposal on anesthesiologists. Specifically, the EC explained that Medicare rates are unsustainable for anesthesiologists’ practices.
Medicare payments for services of physician anesthesiologists have long been plagued by inequality and instability. The Medicare “33% problem” has been a persistent challenge by paying anesthesia services at only 33% of private pay rates, the lowest rate among all health professionals, while Medicare payments for other physician services are approximately 75% of commercial pay rates.