'Medi­care for All' means big shifts on im­mi­gra­tion, abor­tion

Sun.Star Pampanga - - PERSPECTIVE! HEALTH! -

WASH­ING­TON (AP) — The “Medi­care for All” leg­is­la­tion that’s be­come a clar­ion call for pro­gres­sives has two lit­tle-no­ticed pro­vi­sions that could make it even more po­lit­i­cally per­ilous for 2020 Demo­cratic pres­i­den­tial can­di­dates.

The leg­is­la­tion from White House hope­ful Sen. Bernie San­ders, along with a sim­i­lar mea­sure in the House, lifts curbs on gov­ern­ment health in­sur­ance for peo­ple in the coun­try il­le­gally and re­vokes long­stand­ing re­stric­tions on tax­payer-funded abor­tions.

Em­brac­ing the changes will give Demo­cratic can­di­dates a boost with the party’s lib­eral base in a wide-open pri­mary fight. But such di­vi­sive is­sues could com­pli­cate things for an even­tual nom­i­nee seek­ing vot­ers in the mid­dle. Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump has de­nounced Medi­care for All as “so­cial­ism,” and im­mi­gra­tion and abor­tion are is­sues that en­er­gize Trump’s po­lit­i­cal base .

“It seems like the writ­ers of the bills are just try­ing to pan­der to the Demo­cratic ac­tivists,” said Janet Robert, pres­i­dent of the anti-abor­tion ad­vo­cacy group Democrats for Life. “You don’t see this com­ing from Democrats who run in com­mu­ni­ties in more ru­ral ar­eas. You don’t just need votes from Demo­cratic ac­tivists to win the elec­tion.”

But Kristin Lynch, a spokes­woman for 2020 Demo­cratic hope­ful Sen. Cory Booker of New Jer­sey, said the se­na­tor be­lieves “it is im­per­a­tive that all res­i­dents of the U.S. have af­ford­able, qual­ity health cover­age,” in­clud­ing “com­pre­hen­sive re­pro­duc­tive care.” Booker is a co-spon­sor of San­ders’bill.

Other Demo­cratic se­na­tors run­ning for pres­i­dent have also signed on to their Ver­mont col­league’s leg­is­la­tion: Kirsten Gil­li­brand of New York, Ka­mala Har­ris of Cal­i­for­nia, and El­iz­a­beth War­ren of New York. Their of­fices did not re­spond to re­quests for com­ment.

Be­yond the Se­nate, a spokes­woman for 2020 Demo­cratic can­di­date Pete But­tigieg said he sup­ports lift­ing cur­rent re­stric­tions on tax­payer fund­ing for abor­tion. But­tigieg, mayor of South Bend, In­di­ana, gen­er­ally sup­ports cov­er­ing im­mi­grants even if they are in the coun­try il­le­gally, but she said he’d have to see specifics.

Nei­ther San­ders’bill nor the sim­i­lar mea­sure in the House has a re­al­is­tic chance of be­com­ing law, with the Se­nate con­trolled by Repub­li­cans and Trump in the White House. But the House bill will get com­mit­tee hear­ings this year, and sup­port­ers are press­ing for votes.

So far, the de­bate has cen­tered on the bill’s prom­ise of qual­ity care with no pre­mi­ums or co­pays ver­sus its po­ten­tially huge costs. Adding im­mi­gra­tion and abor­tion take it in a dif­fer­ent di­rec­tion.

The words “im­mi­grant” and “abor­tion” don’t ap­pear in San­ders’bill, which is ex­pected to be re-in­tro­duced soon, or in House leg­is­la­tion from Demo­cratic Reps. Pramila Jaya­pal of Wash­ing­ton and Deb­bie Din­gell of Michi­gan. In­stead the leg­is­la­tion refers to U.S. “res­i­dent” and “com­pre­hen­sive re­pro­duc­tive” care.

Both Medi­care for All bills would ex­tend cover­age to ev­ery U.S. res­i­dent, del­e­gat­ing the health and hu­man ser­vices sec­re­tary to de­fine res­i­dency. The House bill also pro­hibits the gov­ern­ment from deny­ing ben­e­fits be­cause of “cit­i­zen­ship sta­tus.” Both bills call for steps to de­ter im­mi­gra­tion for the “sole pur­pose” of get­ting free med­i­cal care.

That’s dif­fer­ent from for­mer Pres­i­dent Barack Obama’s health care law, which lim­ited ben­e­fits to U.S. cit­i­zens or na­tion­als, and “law­fully present” im­mi­grants. The non­par­ti­san Mi­gra­tion Pol­icy In­sti­tute es­ti­mates there are about 6 mil­lion peo­ple in the U.S. with­out le­gal per­mis­sion who are unin­sured.

“Ev­ery­one, no mat­ter who they are or what ser­vices they need, must have ac­cess to qual­ity af­ford­able health care,” said Din­gell. She said she’s look­ing to start “con­ver­sa­tions across the coun­try to build the con­sen­sus that will en­sure ev­ery per­son gets the health care cover­age they need.”

On abor­tion, both bills es­sen­tially would sweep away the Hyde amend­ment, the term for fed­eral laws stretch­ing back more than 40 years that pro­hibit tax­payer money for abor­tions, ex­cept in cases of rape, in­cest, or to save the life of the woman. Such re­stric­tions would not ap­ply to Medi­care for All. and com­pre­hen­sive re­pro­duc­tive care would be a cov­ered ben­e­fit.

San­ders’ and Din­gell’s of­fices con­firmed that abor­tion would be cov­ered.

Sup­port­ers of abor­tion rights say that’s a lon­gover­due recog­ni­tion of shifts in so­ci­ety and the power of women in the Demo­cratic Party.

“You had this elec­tion where women in par­tic­u­lar showed up be­cause health care is front-and­cen­ter in their minds,” said Leila Abol­fa­zli, who spe­cial­izes in fed­eral pol­icy for the Na­tional Women’s Law Cen­ter. “It makes sense that if you are go­ing to do a new type of health care sys­tem it would in­clude the full range of re­pro­duc­tive health ser­vices.” AP

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