The West Lafayette City Council will vote Monday on a resolution to formally encourage Congress to pass a “Medicare for All” bill, as well as a bill that would allocate money to pay for Americans’ out-of-pocket medical expenses related to COVID-19.
Though it was originally drafted by the Greater Lafayette Democratic Socialists of America, other activist groups such as Younger Women’s Task Force and Greater Lafayette Immigrant Allies have lent support to the resolution.
“The resolution itself doesn’t actually affect policy, but it puts pressure on representatives that this is something that the West Lafayette constituents are wanting,” said Zach Martin, a member of the Health Care Working Group within the GLDSA.
According to data from the Tippecanoe County Health Assessment Plan, 10% of the nearly 200,000 people in Tippecanoe County lack any kind of health insurance. Additionally, 2,000 people in the county have lost their jobs as a result of the pandemic.
Given that many jobs tie health insurance to employment, the GLDSA expects that many have lost their health insurance during widespread layoffs. The group cites this as its main reason for advocating the resolution.
The resolution, which now has the support of six of nine of West Lafayette’s councilors, will face a vote at 6:30 p.m. and is expected to pass with ease. If West Lafayette Mayor John Dennis signs the resolution, the city would join other Indiana towns such as South Bend and Bloomington in calling for Congress to pass this legislation.
The two pieces of health-care legislation targeted by the proposal have been stuck in congressional committees since their introduction.
The 2019 Medicare for All Act, sponsored by Sen. Bernie Sanders, is intended to replace the current for-profit health-care system with a government-run system. Sanders’ plans would get rid of private insurance and extend coverage to every American.
The Health Care Emergency Guarantee Act was introduced in May, and would require the Department of Health and Human Services to pay the expenses of individuals who received “medically necessary care or services during the COVID-19 pandemic,” according to Congress’ website.
While the Medicare for All bill never left the Senate Finance Committee, recent Democratic wins in Georgia have reenergized progressives’ hopes for its passage. With Ohio Sen. Sherrod Brown poised to head the Senate Finance Committee and Vice President Kamala Harris having co-sponsored the 2019 bill, progressive activists hope the bill receives a vote.
“The health insurance industry is very powerful and very well-funded,” Martin said. “It can buy off congresspeople, essentially. But if you can build enough popular support to show that a congressperson will not win an election, or win an election depending on whether or not they embrace our platform, then we could get closer to a vote on these issues.”
While state-level and federal representation in Indiana remains opposed to Medicare for All, activists hope this will allow them to challenge those representatives in the future.
“If you can put out a policy platform that really responds to people’s basic material needs, good wages, good housing, health care, economic stability,” Martin said, “they’ll be responsive to that.”