Women’s March Brings ‘Medicare for All’ Lobbying to Washington

As the Women’s March comes to Washington today they will be joined by other progressive organizations who spent the day Friday lobbying lawmakers on behalf of for “Medicare for All” legislation.

Members of several groups advocating for healthcare rights stormed Capitol Hill on Friday for a “lobby day” to begin an event-filled weekend as part of the annual Women’s March through the nation’s capital.

The Women’s March organization said that “thousands” of people participated in the lobbying push on Friday. Women’s March senior adviser Winnie Wong said that they hoped to carry their message to members of Congress that now is the time to take action to provide healthcare for all Americans.

Thousands of marchers came to Washington from all over the United States and while there they were able to go directly to their representatives’ offices on Friday to express their strong support for two different universal healthcare bills that have been introduced by progressives in the House and Senate.

“Healthcare for All” has been a unifying issue for progressive activists and lawmakers in recent years, with more and more Democratic politicians including it in their policy platforms.

During his presidential run in 2016, Sen. Bernie Sanders, who had long advocated for single-payer healthcare, made universal healthcare for all Americans one of his primary platform positions. He introduced a bill in the Senate, and called it “Medicare for All” after the popular government program which provides health coverage for the elderly and disabled.

The Women’s March is seeking to drum up support for Sanders’ Senate bill as well as one expected to be introduced by Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), the co-chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus.

Wong said that the Women’s March is supporting Jayapal’s bill, saying:

“It is the most comprehensive and inclusive single-payer bill of all the different ‘Medicare for All’ bills out there. We hope that she will be able to launch the bill with more co-signers than the previous bill had.”

A previous form of Jayapal’s bill, introduced by former Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.) during the previous Congress, received 124 co-sponsors. Jayapal and others in the “Medicare for All” caucus in the House are revising Conyers’ bill, but the details have not yet been released to the public. There are concerns that it will be watered down and contain provisions providing for continuing excessive profits for health insurance and pharmaceutical companies.

Other progressive organizations that participated in the lobbying push Friday included Center for Popular Democracy, Healthcare Now, National Nurses United, and Physicians for a National Health Program.

Jennifer Epps-Addison, the director of Center for Popular Democracy Action, said in a statement:

“The grassroots energy over the past two years has brought us to a point where the people have the opportunity to set an agenda. With the most diverse Congress in history, we can turn our momentum into policy to improve the lives of all people in this country. We support Medicare for All because it ensures that all people can access the care that they need to thrive.”

The incoming Democratic chairwoman of the House Energy and Commerce health subcommittee, Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.), said this week that she intends to hold a hearing on several “Medicare for all” proposals.

Eshoo clarified on Thursday that she would hold the Medicare for All hearing “if the Health Subcommittee can get to it with perhaps a joint hearing with the other Committees that share jurisdiction.”

Democrats in the House are somewhat divided on the issue of universal healthcare, and there are questions about the future of the Medicare for All legislation. Newly-elected progressives believe that the healthcare issue helped them win their elections in November, and they are committed to following through and getting a major healthcare bill passed in the House this year. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi has expressed her support.

A recent poll conducted by Hill.TV and the HarrisX polling company found that 70 percent of respondents support providing Medicare for All, so the American public is on the side of the progressives. Hopefully Friday’s day of lobbying convinced some “on the fence” Democrats to support this important piece of legislation.