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Harris walks back “Medicare-for-All” comments

It didn’t take long for Kamala Harris to walk back some of her comments concerning her desire to wipe out the health insurance industry. From an article posted on CNN.com:

As the furor grew, a Harris adviser on Tuesday signaled that the candidate would also be open to the more moderate health reform plans, which would preserve the industry, being floated by other congressional Democrats. It represents a compromise position that risks angering “Medicare-for-all” proponents, who view eliminating private health insurance as key to enacting their comprehensive reform.

Both the adviser and Harris national press secretary Ian Sams said her willingness to consider alternate routes to a single payer system should not cast doubt on her commitment to the policy.

“Medicare-for-all is the plan that she believes will solve the problem and get all Americans covered. Period,” Sams told CNN. “She has co-sponsored other pieces of legislation that she sees as a path to getting us there, but this is the plan she is running on.”

While there are versions of universal healthcare that include a public option or a public buy-in, we should not forget, the most popular versions in Democratic circles include the abolition of for-profit health insurance companies.

The title of a Washington Post article accurately describes the problem: Democratic candidates face political risks and policy challenges when pressed on health-care specifics.

As I have written about numerous time (here, here, and here), Americans generally support the idea of a more inclusive healthcare system. However, it is only supported broadly because of the lack of detail. As soon as people are explained how that system would work and the level of disruption it would cause, support drops dramatically.  

Not only would a “Medicare-for-All” system disrupt the delivery of healthcare, but eliminating private health insurance would also completely uproot a long established portion of the economy – the health insurance companies.

To my knowledge, no Democratic candidate who has supported this idea of “Medicare-for-All” has been asked about the employees of health insurance companies who would be out of the job. The Washington Post article raises this point:

Another area Democrats have downplayed is the insurance employees whose jobs would be at risk. Roughly 512,000 Americans work directly for health insurance companies and another 908,000 work in closely related industries, according to an estimate by America’s Health Insurance Plans, an industry group.

Given the amount of push back on these proposals’ specifics, Democrats and those who support the “Medicare-for-All” takeover owe it to Americans to be truthful and not downplay the significant effect their desire of total government-run healthcare would have.

Jordan Roberts / Health Policy Analyst

Jordan joined the Locke Foundation in the summer of 2018 as Health Care Policy Analyst. He analyzes state and national health policy issues with an eye toward removing governm...

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