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Nurses and public health campaigners applauded the Council of the District of Columbia on Tuesday for passing a resolution expressing support for Medicare for All, the 73rd local legislative body to take such a step since 2018.
“The D.C. Council has put Congress on notice that D.C. residents demand guaranteed, equitable healthcare for all.”
The newly approved resolution calls on the U.S. Congress to “provide universal, comprehensive health coverage with zero cost-sharing for patients and endorses the federal Medicare for All Act and the State-Based Universal Health Care Act,” legislation that would provide states with the funding and regulatory flexibility necessary to implement their own single-payer programs.
“Together, these bills would remove all financial barriers to care and provide full and comprehensive health insurance to all residents of the District,” declares the resolution, which was first introduced in July.
D.C. Councilmember Christina Henderson, the lead sponsor of the resolution, said in a statement that “the last 18 months have exposed longstanding inequities in our health systems, further placing an unjust burden on Black and Brown residents.”
“This resolution urges Congress to act,” said Henderson. “The Affordable Care Act was a strong start, but now it’s time to go further and provide comprehensive access to healthcare regardless of employment status. It is past time we eliminate discriminatory barriers to health care in the United States.”
The resolution’s passage comes nearly seven months after Reps. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.) and Debbie Dingell (D-Mich.) unveiled the Medicare for All Act of 2021, which would transition the U.S. to a single-payer system over a two-year period and guarantee healthcare to all for free at the point of service.
While the federal bill is currently co-sponsored by a majority of the House Democratic caucus, the party’s leadership has yet to allow a hearing on the measure, let alone a vote.
As part of their reconciliation package, Democrats are considering lowering the Medicare eligibility age and expanding its benefits to include dental, vision, and hearing—popular proposals that could be on the chopping block as corporate-backed Democrats work to scale back the legislation.
Stephanie Sims, RN, a member of National Nurses United and a resident of Washington, D.C., said following the D.C. Council’s vote Tuesday that “we need Medicare for All now, and this resolution sends a strong message that the leadership of our nation’s capital puts patients first—and we demand Congress do the same by backing Medicare for All.”
Melinda St. Louis, a resident of D.C.’s Ward 1 and director of Public Citizen’s Medicare for All campaign, echoed that message.
“The vast racial and income disparities in infections and deaths related to the Covid pandemic in our city have underscored just how inequitable our for-profit health care system is,” she said in a statement. “We don’t have voting representation in Congress, but by joining with municipalities across the country in passing this resolution, the D.C. Council has put Congress on notice that D.C. residents demand guaranteed, equitable healthcare for all.”