WASHINGTON – As Senator Kamala Harris (D-CA) continues to face questions regarding her support for Medicare for all, Chelsea Janes of The Washington Post reports that the 2020 hopeful “admitted … that she had been uncomfortable with Sen. [Bernie] Sanders’ version of Medicare-for-All,” saying “people want choice … I don’t want to be in the business of just taking choice from them without figuring out a way to create options.”
 
When it comes to their health care, Harris is right that Americans “want choice” – which helps explain why, as The Washington Post reports, “Democrats in swing districts are increasingly worried that the outspoken embrace of Medicare-for-all by Bernie Sanders and other top Democratic presidential hopefuls could hurt their chances of keeping the House in 2020.”  As The Post also reported recently, by “veer[ing] left” with their embrace of Medicare for all, Democratic presidential hopefuls are “leaving behind [the party’s] successful midterm strategy.”

But not only is Senator Harris still a co-sponsor of Sanders’s Medicare for all bill – which would eliminate Americans’ ability to choose their coverage and instead force every American into a one-size-fits-all government-run system – even continuing to tout her support for the legislation on her U.S. Senate website.  Harris’s own Medicare for all plan, which she rolled out amid intense criticism weeks ago, would still replace every American’s existing coverage with an entirely new government-run system that would eliminate the consumer choice offered through the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and employer-provided coverage.  Notably, eighty-six percent of Americans with employer-provided coverage rate their coverage as “good” or “excellent,” according to a new national poll by the Kaiser Family Foundation.
 
Meanwhile, the unaffordable costs of Medicare for all and the middle-class tax increases that would be needed to pay for it have also come into focus.  While Senator Harris claims her government-run system would not force middle-class families to pay higher taxes, CNN has reported that “[t]ax experts … say that you can’t raise enough money from taxing the rich and that the levies on all Americans may exceed the savings” supporters of Medicare for all promise.  “There’s no possible way to finance [Medicare for all] without big middle class tax increases,” the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget’s Marc Goldwein explained to The Washington Post.  Likewise, Bloomberg finds that under Medicare for all, “[f]or many Americans … higher taxes would exceed any savings.”  At New York Magazine, Eric Levitz notes that “[i]n policy terms, [Harris’s plan] is the opposite of hard-nosed realism.  Very few left-wing economists – including those who contend that America’s fiscal deficit is too low – believe that the U.S. can afford to establish Medicare for All without charging families that earn $90,000 a year any premiums or new taxes.”

Public opinion research shows that most Americans are well aware that they’d be hit with unaffordable tax hikes under the system Senator Harris supports: “There’s one thing Americans understand about Medicare-for-all: It would mean higher taxes … Americans seem most familiar with the fact that Medicare-for-all would require massively higher taxes,” The Washington Post reports of a recent national poll by the Kaiser Family Foundation.  As Kaiser writes of their findings, “eight in 10 Americans (78%) are aware that taxes would increase for most people under such a plan.”  A previous national poll by Kaiser revealed that 60 percent oppose Medicare for all when they learn it would require most Americans to pay higher taxes.

The Partnership for America’s Health Care Future’s Voter Vitals – a new quarterly poll that tracks public opinion on health care nationwide and in 2020 battleground states – finds that “a clear majority of voters nationwide are primed to reject new government-run systems that will cost voters more to expand coverage like Medicare for All, the public option, and Medicare buy-in.  Most voters want candidates to lower costs, build on what’s working and fix what’s broken – not start over.”  This tracks closely with recent polling conducted by the Kaiser Family Foundation, which finds that the majority of Americans, including Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents, want our elected officials to build and improve upon on our current system.

And, as some candidates push the so-called public option as a moderate alternative to Medicare for all, 2020 contenders and others acknowledge such an approach would lead to the same one-size-fits-all government-run system, while a new study by Navigant finds that the public option “could place as many as 55% of rural hospitals, or 1,037 hospitals across 46 states, at high risk of closure.”

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