July 9, 2019 | Updates

Bloomberg: “Kamala Harris Says ‘Medicare for All’ Wouldn’t End Private Insurance. It Would”

WASHINGTON – After Senator Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) was “again forced to clean up her stance on private health insurance” following the recent Democratic presidential debates, Bloomberg examines the 2020 hopeful’s “misleading” claims about what Medicare for all would mean for Americans’ existing health care coverage:

Kamala Harris says she supports “Medicare for All,” and she has cosponsored legislation with Bernie Sanders.  But unlike her Democratic presidential rival, she says the plan wouldn’t end private insurance.  That’s misleading.  The measure would outlaw all private insurance for medically necessary services but allow a sliver to remain for supplemental coverage.  It would force the roughly 150 million Americans who are insured through their employer to switch to a government-run program … Larry Levitt, a health policy expert at the nonpartisan Kaiser Family Foundation, said the intent of the Sanders bill is clear.  “As a practical matter, Senator Sanders’ Medicare for all bill would mean the end of private health insurance,” he said.  “Employer health benefits would no longer exist, and private insurance would be prohibited from duplicating the coverage under Medicare.”

While The New York Times confirms that “private health insurance would be abolished” under Senator Sanders’s legislation, The Hill makes note of the “discrepancy between those who have supported the Sanders [Medicare for all] bill on and off the debate stage,” as “[o]nly a few White House hopefuls raised their hands when asked at last week’s debates if they were willing to abolish private insurers, even though others who were on the stage have publicly backed legislation from Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) which would do just that … [M]uch of the voting public isn’t ready to give up their private insurance.  Harris has waffled on the issue of private insurance for months, despite being a co-sponsor of Sanders’s legislation.  But she isn’t the only candidate in this situation.”

Shedding some light on why, a new CNN poll finds that “just 21% say they favor national health insurance and that it should completely replace private health insurance.  Among potential Democratic voters, just 30% feel that way.”  And, in an interview with Senator Sanders last Sunday, ABC’s George Stephanopoulos highlighted the unpopularity of Medicare for all, pointing to polling data from the Kaiser Family Foundation: “When you talk about eliminating private health insurance, support flips, you get 58 percent opposed.  It gets even worse when you tell Americans they’re going to have to pay more taxes, which you have conceded.  Look at that right there, it goes to 37 percent favor, 60 percent oppose.  So it appears you’re pushing something people say they don’t want.”

Notably, Democratic presidential candidates acknowledged during their first round of debates that so-called “moderate” alternatives to Medicare for all – new government insurance systems such as “buy-in” and “public option” schemes – would also lead to a one-size-fits-all health care system run by Washington, and as such would ultimately present Americans with the same high costs, unaffordable tax increases, and diminished access to high-quality health care.  Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) said: “The truth is, if you have a buy-in over a four or five year period, you move us to single payer more quickly,” adding that under such a system, “our step to single payer is so short.”  And Mayor Pete Buttigieg (D-Ind.) emphasized that a “buy-in” or “public option” system “will be a very natural glide path to the single payer environment.”



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