For the first time, the Democratic Party platform mentions “Medicare for All,” according to a draft version released this week. It’s a victory for progressives who worked to make the transformation of the health care system a central issue in the presidential campaign.
“Generations of Democrats have been united in the fight for universal health care. We are proud our party welcomes advocates who want to build on and strengthen the Affordable Care Act and those who support a Medicare for All approach; all are critical to ensuring that health care is a human right,” the document reads.
Former Vice President Joe Biden, the party’s presumptive nominee for president, does not back Medicare for All, a policy that was central to the rival presidential campaign of Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.). So the platform does not endorse the idea, and the reference to it is brief. But supporters say it’s still a win to have their progress acknowledged ― and to have the idea enshrined in an official party document in a positive way.
“If this pandemic has taught us anything, it’s that health care is a human right and that the greed and cruelty of health insurance corporations must end,” said Josh Orton, a senior adviser to Sanders who was on the committee. “A majority of Democrats in the U.S. House support a Medicare for All system, and it shows real progress that our movement is now a part of the DNC platform itself.”
A 15-person panel, including backers of both Biden and Sanders put together the 80-page document. Many of planks in the platform come directly from the recommendations of the joint policy task forces the two teams put together this summer as an effort to show a united front against President Donald Trump. Medicare for All was not included there, however.
The Sanders campaign offered an amendment mentioning Medicare for All to the platform drafting committee last week, and it was accepted. The platform now goes to the full 180-person platform committee, composed of about 180 delegates. They will have the change to make changes and then send a version to be ratified by the full Democratic National Convention in August.
The fight over achieving universal health care took up significant airtime during the Democratic presidential primary, as candidates sparred over whether the U.S. should transition to Medicare for All ― a single-payer health care system that would move every American off private insurance and onto a government-sponsored plan ― or build a public option into the current, predominantly private insurance system.
Biden’s campaign has backed expanding the Affordable Care Act to include a public option that Americans can buy into. Biden has also since backed lowering the Medicare enrollment age to 60, down from 65.
On the campaign trail, however, the former vice president took several swipes at Medicare for All, arguing it could be bad for union members with already robust health care plans, and that the program would be too expensive.
Despite these attacks, Medicare for All has continued to grow in popularity nationwide as activists make the case against a private system that for the majority of Americans ties health insurance to employment. The proposal has achieved particular relevance during the coronavirus pandemic, as millions of Americans continue to lose their jobs and health insurance during a public health and economic crisis.
On the whole, the platform does reflect the incremental leftward shift the party has taken in the last four years around issues like socioeconomic inequality and climate change. It calls for mandating net-zero emissions for all buildings by 2030 and creating a new commission to study slavery reparations, as well as a ban on for-profit charter schools — language stronger than the 2016 platform.
The Republican Party is not publishing a party platform this year; instead Trump is expected to release a statement of intent.