Could This Democrat Bring ‘Medicare For All’ to Michigan?

Following a national push by Sen. Bernie Sanders, Democrat Abdul El-Sayed is proposing "Michicare," a single-payer health plan to cover all Michiganders' health care.

[Photo: Abdul el-Sayed speaks to a crowd in Michigan]
Abdul El-Sayed’s plan would be “financed through a combination of a graduated income tax, a business tax, and federal healthcare dollars flowing into the state through Medicaid and ACA programs.” Abdul For Michigan / YouTube

Michigan Democrat Abdul El-Sayed, the former Detroit health commissioner competing for the party’s gubernatorial nomination, on Wednesday released his “Michicare” single-payer health-care plan.

“As a doctor, I believe that everyone in Michigan—regardless of how much they make, where they live, or what they do for work—should have access to high quality health care,” El-Sayed said in a statement. “Michicare is our plan to take back health care from the insurance companies and put it back in the hands of Michiganders and the providers who serve them.”

El-Sayed’s “Michicare” plan would “would cover a comprehensive set of benefits based on the essential health benefits outlined by the Affordable Care Act (ACA), and every Michigander would choose a primary care provider to help direct their care,” according to its executive summary. These covered services would include both maternity and newborn care, as well as reproductive services and family planning.

The plan did not mention abortion services. However, in a statement to Rewire.News about whether abortion care would be included in the policy and if he would seek to overturn state restrictions banning insurance from covering abortion services, El-Sayed said that “as a doctor, I know that there is no such thing as comprehensive health care without comprehensive family planning services, which means access to abortion services without the state getting in the way. Therefore, we will seek to amend any state policy that stands between a woman and her doctor.”

Michigan bans insurance coverage for abortion care, except in cases of life endangerment. In 2013, when the state’s Republican-majority legislature introduced a measure to implement the policy, then-state Sen. Gretchen Whitmer, who is now running against El-Sayed in the state’s August 7 Democratic primary, told the story of her own sexual assault when speaking out against the legislation and a provision in it requiring the purchase of additional insurance riders for abortion care in cases of rape. The measure nonetheless passed and remains in place, though Whitmer introduced legislation to roll the policy back in 2014.

Whitmer in a statement to Rewire.News said that she would also support overturning the state’s ban on insurance covering abortion should she be elected, adding that she has “been on the front lines fighting for women’s reproductive rights” in the state and that “As governor, I will continue to fiercely defend the rights of every Michigan woman, including women’s access to all forms of reproductive care, contraception, and maternity care, paid family leave, and equal pay.”

Sen. Bernie Sanders’ (I-VT) Medicare-for-All plan would cover abortion care and pre-empt the Hyde Amendment’s ban on federal funding for abortion care. The full text of the bill specifies that “any other provision of law in effect on the date of enactment of this Act restricting the use of Federal funds for any reproductive health service shall not apply to monies in the Trust Fund,” which, as Rewire.News reported, means Hyde could not be applied to Medicare funds for abortion procedures.  

Under the “Michicare” plan, all children and adults would be covered until the age of 65, when they transition to Medicare. The average family in the state making roughly $48,000 per year would save about $417 per month between insurance, out-of-pocket health costs, and auto insurance (the plan also states that auto insurance rates would fall in the state as there would be decreased need to cover medical expenses through the policies), according to the campaign.

Federal immigration status would not be considered an eligibility requirement under the plan for those wishing to sign up for health insurance. Everyone who pays state taxes would be able to sign up.

El-Sayed’s plan would be “financed through a combination of a graduated income tax, a business tax, and federal health care dollars flowing into the state through Medicaid and ACA programs.”

Speaking with Rewire.News last November at the Women’s Convention in Detroit, El-Sayed vowed to advocate for pro-choice policy should he be elected governor. “One of things that you have as the governor is a position on which to weigh in on critical issues, and I will always use that position to advocate for pro-choice policy and to advocate for Planned Parenthood, and to advocate based on my own experiences and the data we have in Michigan,” he said.

Whitmer’s campaign website does not offer many specifics on a policy platform on health care, including on her stance on single-payer health coverage, and instead suggests the gubernatorial candidate would “work with anyone who wants to expand coverage, and lower costs of health care.” When asked about what health-care policies she supports, Whitmer told Rewire.News that if elected she would “take on Trump and Republicans who threaten our health coverage and protect people with pre-existing conditions” and that she is “ready to roll up my sleeves and work to protect Medicaid expansion and make health care more affordable and accessible for all Michigan families.”

She did not answer a question about whether she would support a Medicare-for-All or single-payer plan, but she has attracted fundraising support from the PAC of a major Michigan insurer, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan. El-Sayed has said his campaign will not accept corporate PAC money.

Shri Thanedar, another Democrat running in the primary, supports a single-payer plan.