Medicare for All: The fight continues

The Social Security Act of 1965 was signed into law on July 30, 1965, by President Lyndon B. Johnson as amendments to Social Security legislation. At the bill-signing ceremony President Johnson enrolled former President Harry S. Truman as the first Medicare beneficiary and presented him with the first Medicare card, and his wife Bess, the second.

The following is an open letter to the single-payer community from Rep. Dennis Kucinich of Ohio, Rep. John Conyers Jr. of Michigan and Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont. It was released on the eve of Medicare’s 45th anniversary.


Congress of the United States

July 29, 2010

Dear friends of health care for all,

Now that a new health care bill has been signed into law, it has never been more important to have a strong movement behind Medicare for All.

Many health care experts have expressed concern that the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, does not adequately contain costs for American families and businesses. If they are correct, and we believe they are, additional legislative cost containment measures will be necessary in the future.

When it is time for Congress to try to control health care costs again, the demand for Medicare for All must be undeniable. There is substantial support for a federal Medicare for All solution, embodied by H.R. 676, the National Health Care Act, and S. 703, the American Health Security Act, in the Congress and around the country. We believe that this support can and will continue to grow.

The truth is not enough. We already know that such a health care system has repeatedly proven to control costs more effectively, cover everyone, or almost everyone, and deliver care of significantly higher quality than health care systems that tolerate the presence of private health insurance companies. Now we must make it so that the truth can no longer be ignored.

During the health care debate, the movement created significant momentum on which to build. Its voice was heard in multiple Congressional hearings – it won historic victories in a House vote to grant an ERISA waiver to a state that passes a Medicare for All-like plan and in a Senate provision allowing a waiver from the Exchanges for states to innovate with health coverage such as a state-based Medicare for All-like system that was included in the new law.

The latter victory created a new opening. Though the effective date for the Exchange waiver was pushed back to 2017 by the Congressional Budget Office to avoid driving up the estimated cost of the bill, the waiver’s presence sent a clear message: if a state thinks it can do better, Congress wants to see it.

We are encouraged by the progress already garnered in multiple states toward guaranteed health care and we will continue to work hard in Congress to clear any obstacles in the way. The 2017 date can be changed at the same time Congress considers all of the other waivers from federal laws that will be required for the state to move forward. That can happen either before or after a state passes a Medicare for All-like bill.

Regardless of the legislative path, we vow to continue to fight alongside you for health care justice at the both the federal and state levels. We believe that Medicare for All is inevitable in the United States. It is up to all of us to determine when the inevitable becomes the reality.


Rep. Dennis J. Kucinich

Rep. John Conyers Jr.

Sen. Bernie Sanders