On the same day last month both Joe Biden and Kamala Harris suffered the same revealing slip of the tongue. They each referred to the coming “Harris-Biden administration.”
Let’s see if Harris makes the same gaffe this week when she debates Vice President Mike Pence in Utah on Wednesday night.
There’s no mistaking that Harris has openly assumed the role of heir-apparent to Biden.
If he wins this November, the former vice president will be 78-years-old when he takes the oath of office. He’s bound to be considered a lame duck from the day he is sworn in. And that may mark the moment when Kamala Harris abandons the pretense that she is some kind of moderate on health care.
Harris was, after all, was the very first co-sponsor of Sen. Bernie Sanders’s 2017 “Medicare-for-all” bill, which would have outlawed private coverage and initiated a government takeover of the health insurance system. She endorsed Sanders’s second legislative bid for Medicare-for-All in 2019, too.
The Sanders plan is breathtaking in its radicalism. By ending private insurance, it would put 1.8 million Americans out of work, according to research from economists at the University of Massachusetts.
Estimates of the federal spending necessary to pay for the brand of health care reform that Harris, Sanders, and the progressive wing of the party favor vary from enormous to astounding.
Most studies put the price tag between $30 trillion and $40 trillion in its first 10 years. Those estimates may be low, as they assume massive cuts in payments to doctors and hospitals that are unlikely to happen.
For perspective, the total federal budget for fiscal year 2019, pre-COVID, was $4.4 trillion.
The fictitious answer to the question of how we pay for Medicare-for-All is by eliminating all the profits and administrative costs associated with the current system and higher taxes on the rich. But even doubling all federal individual and corporate income tax receipts would be insufficient to cover Medicare-for-All’s tab.
The premiums, deductibles, and co-pays of insured Americans would disappear as expenses for individuals and employers — and re-appear as taxes.
In truth, government administration is likely to be far less efficient than private-sector firms that must make profits to survive. If there are any “savings” to be realized, they will come from the rationing of care that’s universal in socialized systems.
When she was running for president rather than dauphin, Harris offered up her own version of “Medicare-for-all,” then disavowed it, then hedged.
No, she wouldn’t entirely eliminate private insurance — she’d just impose strict federal requirements on exactly what private insurers had to cover and regulate what they could charge. Think of mandatory ObamaCare exchange plans but with less choice. And she promised to phase her plan in over 10 years rather than Sanders’s four.
Harris backed off because she knows most Americans like the coverage they currently have. Seven in ten people rate their coverage as “good” or “excellent.” Eight in ten people say that the care they personally receive is “good” or “excellent.”
But the party’s dominant left-wing does not care what public opinion says. They want sweeping change in all aspects of American life, with health care near the top of the list.
Biden may pause the Democrats’ quest for “Medicare-for-all.” Harris’s history shows that she’ll resume the drive for a government takeover of health insurance as soon as the opportunity presents itself.
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.