Tuesday morning, members of the House Rules Committee convened to hold the first-ever congressional hearing on a new Medicare for All Act, which builds on the push for universal healthcare present in the Affordable Care Act of 2010.

The hearing focused on the need for new legislation as well as specific costs and contents of the bill. During the hearing, witnesses called forth by both the Democrats and Republicans gave testimony and then were questioned by congressmen regarding their expertise.

The Democratic witnesses told stories of healthcare shortcomings, such as a person with permanent brain damage having taken fish antibiotics instead of paying to go to the hospital. The Republican witnesses expressed concerns with the Act’s cost of implementation, elimination of private healthcare and inclusion of federal funding for controversial reproductive health practices such as abortion.

Ranking Rep. Tom Cole, R-Okla., made his opposition to the bill known in his opening remarks.

“This bill is a socialist proposal that threatens freedom of choice and would allow Washington to pose one-size-fits-all plans on the American people,” Cole said.

U.S. Rep. Debbie Dingell, D-Mich., is a co-author on the Medicare for All Act with Rep. Pramila Jayapal, D-Wis. Jim McGovern, D-Mass., chairman of the House Rules Committee, said Dingell played a large role in organizing the hearing.

“The time is now to ensure that every American has access to quality, affordable healthcare,” Dingell said upon the hearing’s announcement. “Medicare for All is the beginning of a national conversation about how to improve healthcare and bring down costs.

McGovern said in his opening remarks he anticipated “lively debate” over the course of the hearing.

“After nearly a decade of Republicans talking only about how to rip healthcare away from people when they were in charge, this majority is here to discuss how to expand it and how to lower costs and improve outcomes in the process,” McGovern said.

Dingell said she admires McGovern’s initiative in providing a forum for debate.

“Today, we thank Chairman McGovern for holding the first-ever Congressional hearing on the Medicare for All Act,” Dingell said. “Momentum is growing across the country to guarantee health care as a human right, and this hearing is a critical step in that direction. … As the House Democratic majority works to make sure no person goes without the health care that they need, we look forward to working with the American people and our colleagues in Congress to achieve our vision.”

McGovern said he believes healthcare was a defining factor in the 2018 elections and will remain prominent in the policy landscape through the congressional and presidential elections in 2020.

“I have long believed that healthcare is a right for all, not a privilege for the lucky few, and this Congress is putting that belief into action,” McGovern said.

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