The Slatest

House Progressives Launch the Medicare for All Caucus

Pramila Jayapal speaking passionately
Rep. Pramila Jayapal speaks outside a Federal Detention Center that holds migrant women on June 9 in SeaTac, Washington. Karen Ducey/Getty Images

On Thursday, progressive House Democrats announced the formation of a Medicare for All caucus of members who support moving to a single-payer health care system. “We are united today by a common conviction that healthcare is a human right,” Rep. Pramila Jayapal said during the caucus’s launch event. “That health care must be affordable and accessible to all residents of the United States, and that one of the best ways to ensure healthcare for all is to use the system that already exists for millions of seniors […] and that is Medicare.”

So far, the caucus—which Jayapal co-chairs alongside Reps. Debbie Dingell and Keith Ellison, the Democratic National Committee’s deputy chair—has at least 70 members, including Democrats thought to be in the running for leadership positions in the fall such as progressive Reps. Barbara Lee and Tim Ryan, who mounted a quixotic challenge to House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi in 2016.

The caucus may well grow larger. There are 122 House members—nearly two-thirds of the House’s Democrats—co-sponsoring Medicare for All bill HR 676, which Ellison currently helms. Support for single-payer has grown substantially since Trump’s election, both in the House and among expected 2020 candidates like Sens. Cory Booker, Kirsten Gillibrand, Kamala Harris, and Elizabeth Warren, who have all backed Sen. Bernie Sanders’ Medicare for All bill in the Senate. A number of other health care proposals that would significantly expand government-provided insurance are being discussed in liberal policy circles: a pair of Medicare buy-in bills and a Medicaid buy-in bill in the Senate as well as a Medicare Extra for All plan for universal coverage proposed by the Center for American Progress, a prominent liberal think tank.

The formation of the Medicare for All caucus comes on the heels of news that Democratic congressional candidate Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York is considering the formation of a new “sub-caucus” of left-wing Democrats—presumably further to the left of the existing House Progressive Caucus—upon her likely election to the House in November.