'Medicare for All'
bill awaits passage
It seems providential that our most ennobling national holiday — Martin Luther King Jr. Day — came Jan. 18, just as our country emerged from national trauma of the sort King risked his life to combat.
And as we celebrate King, we also should remember U.S. Rep. John Conyers Jr., D-Mich., the congressman who, immediately after King's assassination in 1968, launched the campaign to establish the national holiday on King's birthday, a goal achieved in 1983.
Twenty years later, Conyers launched another campaign — for justice in health care — that had been a vital part of King's agenda.
In March 1966, at a meeting of the Medical Committee for Human Rights, a group of American health care officials created in 1964 to provide medical care of disadvantaged Americans, King called for direct action "to raise the conscience of the nation" against segregated and inferior medical care received by Blacks. "Of all the forms of inequality," he said, "injustice in health is the most shocking and inhuman."
In 2003, Conyers introduced the "single-payer" United States Health National Health Care Act, now known as "Medicare for All." He reintroduced the bill in every Congress until 2017, attracting as many as 124 cosponsors, but the bill was never brought to a vote.
" 'Medicare for All' is the direction Americans overwhelmingly want us to go," Conyers told the Detroit Free Press in April 2017. "I want my colleagues to join me in supporting single-payer, not to save money or to win elections, but because it is the moral and just thing to do."
Conyers, the longest serving African American representative in congressional history, died in 2019 at age 90. He had resigned from Congress in 2017 after charges of sexual advances by two women, which he denied.
Conyers' bill, long numbered HR 676, which would provide 'Medicare for All,' has been superseded by HR 1384 with the same purpose, which awaits reintroduction in the newly elected U.S. Congress.