Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., wants to ban private health insurance. But if she can’t do that outright, she’s happy settling for a reform that will eventually take away private health coverage.
Harris, who is pursuing the Democratic nomination for president in 2020, spoke honestly about her proposal for the healthcare system — something her peers rarely do — and it got her in trouble. During a CNN town hall in Des Moines, Iowa, on Jan. 28, she said we should “eliminate” private health insurance.
Immediately, Harris faced backlash and softened her tone. Her communications director provided clarification: You might want a burrito now, but you’d “accept tacos in the meantime.” In other words, she might not be able to get “Medicare for all” right away, but she’d settle for something close to it until she can.
Harris should be commended for her honesty and criticized for her policy. Other Democratic lawmakers who advocate for “Medicare for all” aren’t clear with voters about the downsides intrinsic to the system.
The 2017 Medicare for All plan, S.1804, proposed by Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., would institute a national health plan that covers all Americans. It would expand Medicare to include more health services, including vision and dental insurance, and outlaw any private health plans that offer the same services. Doctors would be paid Medicare rates that are about 40 percent below what they receive for treating patients with private insurance. Such a move would limit the supply of doctors.
During the last Congress, 16 senators and 124 Democratic representatives co-sponsored “Medicare for All” legislation. No one has introduced a Medicare for All bill yet this Congress, but when they do, a significant portion of Democrats in office are sure to jump on board. The chairwoman of the Medicare for All Caucus, Rep. Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash., is expected to introduce her House bill this month. During the 2018 elections, half of the Democratic candidates for House elections supported “Medicare for all.”
How many candidates and politicians told voters that they supported eliminating their current insurance? Before Harris, almost none.
And for good reason — people like the insurance they have. Among the approximate 160 million people with employer-sponsored coverage, more than 7 in 10 are satisfied with their current plan. While support for “Medicare for all” may seem high in some polls, it vanishes when folks realize they would lose their current insurance. Nearly 6 in 10 oppose a “Medicare for all” system when they’re told it would eliminate private health insurance, according to a recent Kaiser Family Foundation poll.
Eliminating private insurance is one of the many ugly realities that proponents of “Medicare for all” have been hiding. Harris’ moment of honesty should inform voters of the true intentions of Democrats’ plans.