Sen. Kamala Harris will be the Democratic Party’s nominee for vice president, we learned on Tuesday. The pick appears to be in line with former Vice President Joe Biden’s semi-moderate instincts.
But on healthcare, Harris has proved anything but moderate. She has a long track record of support for government-run healthcare.
Harris was the first senator to co-sponsor Sen. Bernie Sanders’s “Medicare for all” bill in 2017. She co-sponsored his bill again in 2019. While running for president, she proposed a convoluted plan for “Medicare for all” that claimed to leave a role for private insurers. Her plan would have effectively regulated them out of existence over 10 years, rather than the four years championed by Sanders.
Harris also wants to put the government in charge of access to prescription drugs. She’s a staunch advocate for price controls, having released a plan last year that would allow the federal government to set the price of certain medications and impose heavy fines on drug manufacturers who are unable or unwilling to comply.
She’s called for expanded use of so-called “march-in” rights, which enable the federal government to void patents for certain drugs and instead license them to a competing company to sell them at a lower cost.
The effects would be devastating, particularly at a time when multiple firms are on the verge of producing an effective COVID-19 vaccine. Given the enormous costs associated with developing a new medication (roughly $2.6 billion over ten years) drug firms need to have faith that their investments will eventually pay off.
If the government can dictate prices or seize the fruits of their labor, drug makers won’t invest those vast sums in research and development. Medical innovation would grind to a halt.
The Biden-Harris ticket appears to be a triumph for the Democratic establishment. If so, it shows just how hostile that establishment is to private healthcare.
Sally C. Pipes is President, CEO, and Thomas W. Smith Fellow in Health Care Policy at the Pacific Research Institute. Her latest book is False Premise, False Promise: The Disastrous Reality of Medicare for All (Encounter 2020). Follow her on Twitter @sallypipes.