Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) supports holding hearings on “Medicare for all,” her spokesman said Thursday, marking a major step forward for supporters of a single-payer health system.
Some Democrats have been talking about holding hearings on the issue, but Pelosi’s backing is seen as a boost for those efforts.
Pelosi had said last year only that Medicare for all would “have to be evaluated” and is “on the table.”
Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), the main sponsor of Medicare for all in the House, said Thursday that hearings would likely start in the Rules and Budget committees.
That would leave out the main committees with jurisdiction over the issue: Energy and Commerce and Ways and Means. The chairmen of those committees have not given their backing to Medicare for all, while the chairmen of Rules and Budget have.
Pelosi’s support for hearings, which was first reported Thursday by The Washington Post, is a plus for the movement, but it’s unclear whether she would support further steps such as holding a vote on Medicare for all legislation.
Jayapal has been working to update the Medicare for all legislation and said Thursday she hopes to have draft text available “in the next week or two.”
She said she is hoping to eventually have hearings in the Energy and Commerce Committee, and has spoken to its chairman, Rep. Frank Pallone Jr. (D-N.J.), but that he has yet to give a commitment to hold hearings.
“He hasn’t committed that to me but I have the Speaker’s commitment that she will help me to do this,” Jayapal said. “And I spoke to Pallone and Pallone is not opposed, he just hasn’t said yes yet.”
Pallone threw cold water on the idea in November, but that was before Pelosi’s support for hearings.
“I’ve always been an advocate for Medicare for all or single-payer, but I just don’t think that the votes would be there for that, so I think our priority has to be stabilizing the Affordable Care Act, preventing the sabotage that the Trump administration has initiated,” Pallone said in November.
Jayapal said that the bill she is working on will not spell out how the measure would be paid for or which taxes will increase.
“This is really going to be a bill on what the system looks like,” she said.
Some lawmakers are awaiting the details of the new version.
Rep. Joe Kennedy III (D-Mass.) told The Hill in November that he was “hopeful” he could support the new version if issues with last year’s bill were worked out.
Rep. John Yarmuth (D-Ky.), the chairman of the Budget Committee, said last year that he planned to hold hearings on Medicare for all.
“Chairman Yarmuth plans to hold a hearing this Congress on the various approaches to expanding coverage and making health care more affordable, which would include different Medicare for All options,” spokesman Sam Lau said Thursday.
Rep. Richard Neal (D-Mass.), the Ways and Means chairman, has been more open to the idea, saying in December that Medicare for all deserved “a conversation.”
Democrats, however, face pressure from their left wing on the issue, not only from Jayapal but from a class of new members including incoming Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.).