Senator Pledges To Back Single-Payer Health System
Since first running for Congress in 1992, Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) has declined to enroll in the health insurance program that is offered to members of Congress, the Washington Post reports.
Brown, a supporter of a single-payer system that he compares to Medicare for all, said he would acquire his own insurance coverage until lawmakers had guaranteed access to care for all U.S. residents. He said he first made the decision to "show solidarity with would-be constituents."
Health care in the early 1990s "was front and center on the national agenda," according to the Post. Brown said, "Truth be told, I thought that we would pass some real universal health care in the next two years," adding, "I didn't think it was going to be a 15-year-long or two-decade-long commitment."
Brown, who held a House seat for 14 years before being elected in 2006 to the Senate, enrolled in an individual health care policy plan that provided coverage after a $5,000 annual deductible and offered fewer coverage benefits than the plan offered to members of Congress. He declined to reveal his annual premiums.
After an auto accident in January 2000, Brown paid $12,000 to $13,000 out of pocket for medical care that was not covered by his policy, according to the Post. Brown said he does not regret his decision to purchase an individual policy, adding, "I had made the commitment, and I just still lived with it."
Gail Shearer, director of health policy analysis for Consumers Union, said Brown's action is a "meaningful gesture," adding, "If Congress were to pass a law tomorrow eliminating federal employee benefits for members of Congress, it would be a wake-up call and it would be likely to lead to renewed interest in solving the problem."
Brown said he is hopeful that Congress can make "major progress" to provide comprehensive health care. He added, "Maybe in some sense, it gave me some incentive to work on real health reform for people. I just think that if we (lawmakers) get an option for a good health plan, the public ought to have the same option" (Lee, Washington Post, 12/7).