DeLauro Wades Into Healthcare Debate

The New Haven Independent
NEW HAVEN, CT – Rosa DeLauro isn’t afraid of a Democratic Party fight over whether to reform or to overhaul healthcare in this country.

In fact, she welcomes the debate.

Because now that almost all Democrats share a common vision for moving towards universal healthcare in one way or another, the ensuing intraparty scrap should only strengthen those proposals for how to get there.

A full house at the Yale Law School on at Wednesday’s event.
The longtime Congresswoman from New Haven made that pitch to a full house of senior citizens, law students, and healthcare policy wonks at the Yale Law School on Wednesday afternoon during a conversation about Medicare for America (MFA). The event was sponsored by the Solomon Center for Health Law and Policy at Yale
Law School.

The universal healthcare bill, which DeLauro first proposed at the end of last year and which she plans to reintroduce for U.S. House consideration later this spring, would expand Medicare coverage to all Americans regardless of age or income, but would preserve employer-sponsored health insurance so long as that coverage is “gold-level.”

Even though her bill leans more towards rebuilding rather than reforming the American healthcare system, DeLauro said on Wednesday she hopes to keep alive the seemingly divisive debate within the Democratic Party over whether to tinker with the existing Affordable Care Act (ACA) and lower Medicare age requirements, or to get rid of private insurance entirely and build a single-payer, “Medicare for All” system.

DeLauro with Yale Profs Jacob Hacker and Allison Hoffman.
“It’s very energizing,” she said about how healthcare policy has emerged as one of the defining concerns of both Democratic congresspeople and 2020 presidential candidates. “The point is: Democrats believe we ought to be moving in the direction of universal healthcare.”

Any subsequent debate over the best path to realize that goal, she said, will only clarify the dozen different universal healthcare proposals currently out there and will underscore the pressing need to make quality, affordable healthcare accessible to all Americans regardless of employment status.

During Wednesday’s conversation with Yale Professors and national healthcare experts Jacob Hacker and Allison Hoffman, DeLauro provided a detailed overview of her MFA plan. Click here to read a high-level summary of the bill, and here for a copy of the full text.

If passed, MFA would provide automatic Medicare enrollment for this country’s 30 million uninsured, as well as for newborns, those who purchase health insurance on the individual market, and those currently covered by Medicare, Medicaid, and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP). The covered care would expand on Medicare’s current offerings to include prescription drugs, dental, vision, hearing, and long-term supports for the seniors and the disabled.

Premiums would be capped at no more than 9.69 percent of an individuals’ or households’ monthly income with subsidies provided for the poor.

Hoffman, DeLauro, and Hacker.
“Medicare for America has no deductibles,” she said. “Zero.” The program would also cap premiums at no more than 9 percent of an individuals’ or households’ monthly income and out-of-pocket costs at $3,500 for individuals and $5,000 for families.

The program would be paid for by sunsetting the $1.5-trillion tax cut that President Trump and Congressional Republicans passed at the end of 2017, as well as by applying a 5 percent surtax on adjusted gross income above $500,000 and by increasing the Medicare payroll tax, the net investment income tax, and excise taxes on tobacco, alcohol, and sugary drinks.

A spokesperson for DeLauro said that the Congresswoman’s office does not currently have an estimate for how much implementing MFA might cost.

Unlike plans proposed by the most progressive members of the Democratic caucus like Vermont U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, DeLauro’s plan would not scrap private insurance entirely.

Instead, it would allow large employers to continue to provide employer-sponsored care so long as the coverage is comparable to that provided by MFA.

“Many are happy with it,” DeLauro said about the 160 million-plus Americans currently covered by employer-sponsored healthcare. “Many are not.”

MFA would allow employers to enroll their employees in MFA and contribute 8 percent of their annual payroll to the Medicare Trust Fund. It would also allow employees who are offered employer-sponsored care to opt into MFA instead.

Hacker, a celebrated healthcare scholar who is known as the “Father of the Public Option,” praised DeLauro’s plan as using Medicare expansion to provide a path forward from the current state of primarily private, employer-sponsored healthcare to a more comprehensive, universal option.

“Medicare of course isn’t for all Americans,” he said. “The questions is: How could it be for more? Expanding Medicare isn’t just a good alternative for providing coverage, it’s also a really effective way of dealing with the price crisis in the United States.”

In response to Hoffman’s question about why a radical shift in the country’s healthcare system may be more possible in 2020 than it was in 2010 when then-President Barack Obama was crafting the ACA, DeLauro pointed to skyrocketing healthcare costs over the past decade and President Trump’s relentless, though so far unsuccessful, assault on Obamacare.

“Democrats are looking at university healthcare,” she said. “That is a big change in this nation.” She said her goal over the next few months is to protect the ACA from Republican attack, and to encourage a robust debate among universal healthcare among her fellow Dems.
“No Need To Be Adversarial”

Yale MD-PhD Carrie Flynn.
During a brief question-and-answer session after the initial MFA pitch, DeLauro got a taste of some of the intraparty dissent led by the Democratic Party’s left.

Carrie Flynn, a 31-year-old New Jersey native and MD-PhD student at Yale, praised DeLauro’s plan for providing infinitely better, cheaper healthcare that what most Americans can currently afford.

But, she said, there is no need for her to push a plan that retains private insurance. In fact, she said, Democrats should publicly disavow any fealty to the insurance industry, rather than promise industry executive that “Medicare for All” simply won’t happen in the way that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi reportedly did according to the Intercept.

She also criticized Hacker for mentioning during his presentation that Sanders’s Medicare for All plan would cost over $1 trillion per year without also noting that Americans currently spend over $4 trillion a year on healthcare.

“You have to shift the public perception,” she said, and not advocate for “watered-down provisions.”

“I am simply providing a means by which we could transition towards a system that is much, much stronger,” Hacker responded. He recognized that Medicare for All would certainly cost less than the current healthcare system, but said that the latter is weighed down by many different hidden costs, while the former brings all of its costs out into the open and would inevitably inspire a sticker shock among the voting public.

DeLauro added that, while a majority of Americans may support Medicare for All, a majority also is cautious around any plan that flat out ends all employer-sponsored insurance.

“There is no need to be adversarial or divisive,” DeLauro said. All Democrats, she said, should instead keep their eyes on the shared goal of universal healthcare.

Sarah Locke

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