Democrats should focus on making improvements to Obamacare instead of trying to reinvent the wheel with “Medicare for All,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Tuesday.
Pelosi’s thoughts on how to improve the nation’s health-care laws appear to align with those of former Vice President Joe Biden, who in his 2020 presidential bid is calling for building on provisions of Obamacare, formally known as the Affordable Care Act.
“I believe the path to ‘health care for all’ is a path following the lead of the Affordable Care Act,” Pelosi told Cramer. “Let’s use our energy to have health care for all Americans, and that involves over 150 million families that have it through the private sector.”
Several 2020 candidates are advocating for some version of Medicare for All. Arguably the most drastic proposal is from Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., who is calling for eliminating private health insurance and replacing it with a universal Medicare plan. Proponents say it would help reduce administrative inefficiencies and costs in the U.S. health-care system. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., has backed Sanders’ proposal.
However, policy analysts say actually implementing such a law would be tough even if a candidate such as Sanders won the presidency. Democrats would need to hold on to their edge in the House and win the Senate in the 2020 election to regain control of Congress. Then they would likely need 60 votes in the Senate and two-thirds of the House to overcome any potential filibusters. Republicans hold a 53-47 majority in the Senate.
Pelosi’s comments also come as lawmakers and the Trump administration are both trying to pass legislation sometime this year that would bring more transparency to health-care costs and, ultimately, lower costs for consumers.
Pelosi and House Democratic leaders are expected to unveil as soon as this week a long-anticipated plan to reduce U.S. drug prices.
The main thrust of the plan, which is still in flux, would allow Medicare to negotiate lower prices on the 250 most expensive drugs and apply those discounts to private health plans across the U.S., according to a document that surfaced on Capitol Hill on Sept. 10.
The Department of Health and Human Services is prohibited from negotiating drug prices on behalf of Medicare — the federal government’s health insurance plan for the elderly. Private insurers use pharmacy benefit managers to negotiate drug rebates from pharmaceutical manufacturers in exchange for better coverage.
Pelosi has been working for months on a plan that would give HHS that power. House Democratic leaders went on a “listening tour” around the party earlier this year to discuss details of Pelosi’s plan but haven’t yet distributed it across the caucus, a Democratic aide said in an interview.