In his opening remarks, Chairman Jim McGovern (D-Mass.) framed the discussion of health care as a right, stating that, “Health care is a right for all, not a privilege for the lucky few.”
McGovern also emphasized high health care costs, stating, “We're spending an awful lot on health care right now, and we're not getting the services and the effectiveness that we're all demanding … I'd like to think we all believe we can do better.”
Democrats used the bulk of the hearing to make arguments about the morality of ensuring that Americans have health coverage, and also emphasized the importance of beginning a dialogue to talk about overhauling the health care system. Rep. Ed Perlmutter (D-Colo.) stated that “it’s a very important conversation for this nation to have.”
Throughout the hearing, Republican members emphasized that they felt the hearing was a partisan exercise, with Ranking Member Tom Cole (R-Okla.) calling the proposal introduced by Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.) “radical” and saying that Democrats have “not told us how much this massive program would cost, who would pay for it, and how much taxes would have to go up.”
Rep. Debbie Lasko (R-Ariz.) agreed, stating, “this is a very partisan bill and I'm sure you know that most, if not all, Republicans in the House are going to vote against it … I don't know why we're doing this."
The hearing, which was briefly attended by Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), included testimony from Ady Barkan, a health advocate who has amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). Barkan, whose diaphragm and tongue have been weakened by ALS, used a voice-to-text computer program to emphasize his support for a single-payer system, stating, “no more half measures, no more health care for some … We should instead have a rational, fair, comprehensive social safety net that actually catches us when we fall.”
Other witnesses at the hearing included Dean Baker, PhD, Senior Economist, Center for Economic and Policy Research; Sara Collins, PhD, Vice President for Health Care Coverage and Access, The Commonwealth Fund; Doris Browne, MD, MPH, Immediate Past-President, National Medical Association; Farzon Nahvi, MD, Emergency Room Physician; Grace-Marie Turner, President, Galen Institute; and Charles Blahous, PhD, J. Fish and Lillian F. Smith Chair and Senior Research Strategist, Mercatus Center.
Ultimately, Democrats admitted that there is much work to be done on any Medicare for All proposal, with Chairman McGovern stating “I know we won’t pass this bill overnight, but we won’t pass it unless we start the dialogue.”