Saturday, August 15, 2020

Kamala Harris Has Had Some Difficulty With the Health Care Issue

Kamala Harris has had some notable difficulty with the health care issue.

At a Democratic debate in June 2019, the candidates were asked, "Who here would abolish [employer-provided] health insurance in favor of a government-run plan?'

Harris enthusiastically raised her hand––joined over the two evenings of the debate by Sanders, Warren, and de Blasio. Not a surprise since she had already signed on to Bernie Sanders' single-payer health bill.

But the next day she walked that hand raising back. This from NBCNews.com:

Kamala Harris was one of two candidates who raised their hands when asked at Thursday night's debate if they would get rid of private health insurance, but the California senator said Friday she'd misunderstood the question.

"No," Harris told MSNBC's "Morning Joe" when asked if she'd work to abolish private health insurance in favor of "Medicare for All" if elected president.

But in her subsequent answers, she struggled to clarify her position about the role of private insurance under her plan, something that has become a pattern in recent months as Democratic candidates look to navigate politically charged questions about Medicare for All's policy implications.

In January of 2019, she told CNN she wanted to get rid of the "process of going through an insurance company."

Then in May 2019 she said she was referring to  bureaucracy and waste, not the insurance companies. "I know it was interpreted that way. If you watch the tape, I think you'll see that there are obviously many interpretations of what I said."

Whatever she meant, she had already signed-on to the Sanders' single-payer bill that would have entirely eliminated the insurance industry and employer-provided health insurance.

Then a month later, in July 2019, she came out with her own plan. That plan was  similar to one developed in January of 2018 by the Center for American Progress (CAP) called "Medicare Extra." Like the Harris plan, the CAP plan would essentially take today's private Medicare Advantage plans and make them, and traditional Medicare, available to all of those under-age-65. Harris would have gone further by eventually eliminating employer-based coverage by transitioning everyone to the choice of the traditional Medicare plan, or a private Medicare plan run by the insurance companies, over a ten-year period.

So, in a few short months during 2019, Harris co-sponsored the Sanders' single-payer plan that would have completely eliminated private insurance, enthusiastically raised her hand in support of single-payer during a debate, the next day walked that back in a difficult to understand explanation of why she wouldn't entirely eliminate private insurance, and then proposed her own hybrid Medicare plan that would have eventually offered today's insurance company run Medicare Advantage plans to everyone.

Now, she is Joe Biden's running mate––a candidate that has proposed fixing Obamacare.

Here is what Biden said about her own plan when they were opponents:

"The plan, no matter how you cut it, costs $3 trillion when it is, in fact, employed, number one. Ten years from now, after two terms of the senator being president, after her time. Secondly, it will require middle-class taxes to go up, not down. Thirdly, it will eliminate employer-based insurance. And fourthly, what happens in the meantime?"

Harris is a smart politician. She will quickly learn the Biden incremental health plan talking points.

But, I find it hard to believe she will ever truly be comfortable with the health care issue.

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