After Republicans failed to pass a bill repealing the Affordable Care Act (ACA) prior to breaking for the Easter Congressional recess, liberal groups pounced on the opportunity to start laying groundwork for a long-sought health care reform – single payer. Self-proclaimed socialist, former Presidential candidate, and current independent Senator from Vermont Bernie Sanders announced plans to introduce a bill that would essentially function as “Medicare-for-all”, providing health benefits to all Americans, paid for through employer taxes and a progressive income tax structure. On the House side, Rep. John Conyers (D-MI) introduced the “Expanded & Improved Medicare for All Act” (H.R. 676) in January. Conyers has introduced the bill in past Congresses, but this year is up to 93 cosponsors, compared to last Congress’ 62. Though such bills are purely messaging given the current makeup of the Congress and the Presidency, proponents of single-payer healthcare see it as important groundwork to lay for the 2018 midterms and 2020 general election.
The Progressive Change Campaign Committee (PCCC), a political action committee that focuses on progressive issues, started circulating a petition advocating for single-payer the same week that Republican House leadership attempted to corral votes to pass the American Health Care Act. Though politically not feasible in today’s climate, the PCCC points to a recent survey that showed that 85 percent of Democrats and 60 percent of Americans support the government providing universal health coverage. Democrats in Congress have said they are willing to work with Republicans to improve the ACA, so long as repeal is off the table. Republicans still see major health care reform as a must-win issue, but at this point it is unclear whether they will work with Democrats or continue to attempt reform entirely with Republican votes. If ACA repeal efforts ultimately fail, Democrats may be emboldened to push the issue further left, setting the stage for single-payer health care if they once again gain majorities in the House and Senate.