Khanna health care bill

Rep. Ro Khanna gives a press conference during the Web Summit in Lisbon on Nov. 6. The California Indian American Democrat has introduced a new bill, allowing states to use federal funds to create a single payer health care system. (Patricia De Melo Moreira/AFP via Getty Images)

Rep. Ro Khanna, D-California, introduced his State Based Universal Health Care Act Nov. 8 in the House, a bill that would allow states to tap into existing federal funding to create a single payer system.

States should get the flexibility to implement a single payer system, Khanna told India-West during a Nov. 12 briefing with reporters that covered a wide range of issues, including monitoring online privacy and political advertising on social media; the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which was being heard by the Supreme Court that day; and benefits for workers in the gig economy. President Donald Trump’s impeachment proceedings, which began the following day, were not discussed during the half-hour briefing.

“In Congress, our biggest concern is health care,” said the Indian American congressman, echoing the concerns of several leading Democratic presidential contenders who have made the issue the cornerstone of their campaigns. Of particular concern is the high cost of pharmaceuticals and premiums, he said.

Khanna told this publication that his bill — HR 5010, the State-Based Universal Health Care Act — most closely resembles that of presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders, D-Vermont. Sanders and contender Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Massachusetts, have both introduced Medicare For All plans as part of their campaign platforms, in which a government-run plan provides health insurance to all.

Khanna’s bill, which was referred to several committees after it was introduced, would allow states to access federal funds that currently support Medicare, Medicaid and the Affordable Care Act, and bundle them into a “Medicare for all” type program that would provide health care to all of the state’s residents.

To qualify for the waiver, states must have a proposal documenting that they will be able to provide health care coverage to 95 percent of their residents within five years, and 100 percent of residents within a certain time frame.

States that do not reach the 95 percent target after five years would have to revise their plan to achieve the targets, or risk losing their waiver. Federal technical assistance would be made available for states seeking help in developing and implementing these plans, explained the congressman in a press release.

Khanna did not state whether his proposal would cover the nation’s 11 million undocumented residents. Both Sanders and Warren have stated they support a health care plan that extends coverage to undocumented residents. Presidential candidates Joe Biden, Pete Buttigieg, Michael Bennet, Corey Booker, Kamala Harris, Marianne Williamson, and Tom Steyer also responded ‘yes’ to a poll by The Washington Post asking if they supported undocumented immigrants being covered by a government-run health plan.

“States are in a unique position to innovate and lead in the push for universal health care. We must provide them with the tools they need to succeed,” said Khanna, who represents portions of Northern California’s Silicon Valley and Fremont. “Under this proposal, the coverage you receive for health care will be either equal to what you currently receive or more expansive. You will have free choice of providers. Everyone in your community will have health care,” he said in a press statement.

HR 5010 has 15 co-sponsors, including Indian American Rep. Pramila Jayapal, D-Washington, who introduced the “Medicare For All” Act in the House on March 13. Jayapal’s bill — HR 1384, which is also sitting in several committees — proposes a single, government-run plan providing health insurance coverage to all. The plan envisions no out-of-pocket payments for consumers, and would bar other organizations or companies from competing with the government-run system.

“The quality of our health care is much worse than other industrialized countries — the life expectancy in the U.S. is lower than other nations, while our infant mortality rate is much higher,” said Jayapal in a press statement last March, as she introduced the bill.

“Yet the U.S. spends more money per capita on healthcare than any other industrialized nation. We waste hundreds of billions of dollars every year on unnecessary administrative costs, while health care industry executives measure success in profits, instead of patient care.”

“It is time to remove the profit motive in health care, to resolve the inefficiencies and to guarantee quality, therapeutic health care to every person living in the United States,” stated the congresswoman.

Jayapal’s bill says in its text that health care coverage would be extended to every resident of the U.S. It does not state whether the proposal would cover undocumented residents.

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