May 13, 2019 | Updates

Sen. Harris & Sen. Booker Struggle To Give Straight Answers On Medicare For All

WASHINGTON – In high-profile television interviews on Sunday, two U.S. Senators and 2020 presidential hopefuls struggled to answer straightforward questions regarding their support for Senator Bernie Sanders’s (I-Vt.) costly, one-size-fits-all Medicare for all legislation.

Appearing on CNN’s “State of the Union,” Senator Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) caused additional confusion with her attempt to “clear up” her position on eliminating the private health coverage on which 217 million Americans depend.  Mediaite summarizes the exchange:

CNN’s Jake Tapper pressed Senator Kamala Harris (D-CA) on Sunday about whether or not she believes in getting rid of private health insurance companies.

In his broad-range interview with the aspiring 2020 candidate, Tapper noted that Harris’ said at a CNN town hall that she supports the Medicare-for-all push by Bernie Sanders, which, as Tapper says, “essentially gets rid of insurance.”

In that town hall, Harris used the words “let’s eliminate all of that,” a major campaign stumble which was widely reported as her saying America should get rid of the private health insurance market entirely.  Tapper confronted her about what exactly she meant.

“I support Medicare for all but I really do need to clear up what happened on that stage,” she said.  “It was in the context of saying let’s get rid of all the bureaucracy.”

“Oh not the insurance companies,” said Tapper.

“No, that’s not what I meant, I know it was interpreted that way,” she said.  “What I mean was let’s get rid of the bureaucracy.”

“But the bill gets rid of insurance,” said Tapper.

“No, no. It does not get rid of insurance, it does not get rid of insurance,” said Harris.  She started to say what her position is, beginning by saying she supports Medicare for all.

Tapper interjected saying “as a principle you mean.  Not Bernie Sanders’ bill.”

Harris objected, “I support the bill.  I support the bill.”

“Well because the bill gets rid of private insurance for everything that is–” Tapper said.

“It doesn’t get rid of supplemental insurance–” Harris objected again.

“Right, for, cosmetic surgery, but for all–” Tapper said.

“So it doesn’t get rid of all insurance!” said Harris.

“Okay it doesn’t get rid of all insurance, but for all essential health care benefits,” Tapper clarified.

“But why.  Ask the question why. The answer to that question is because Medicare for all, and the vision of what it will be includes an expansion of coverage,” said Harris.

Tapper went on to note that various union members don’t want replacements for their private insurance plans, to which, Harris said the country must look at whether such laborers had to give up wages in exchange for higher coverage for health care.

And appearing on ABC’s “This Week,” Senator Cory Booker (D-N.J.) “attempted to reconcile his co-sponsorship of Sen. Bernie Sanders’ Medicare-for-all bill with his stance that the private insurance industry should not be eliminated — something called for by both the legislation and a number of the Democratic primary’s biggest names, including Sanders and Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif.”

JONATHAN KARL: Let me ask you about healthcare. You are a co-sponsor of Bernie Sanders Medicare for All. But you also say that you don’t want to eliminate private health insurance.

SEN. BOOKER: I think we need –

KARL: Explain that, because his plan eliminates private health insurance.

BOOKER: Well, I support what all Americans I think support, which is this idea in the wealthiest nation on the planet Earth, everyone should have access to health care.  I think the best way to get there is Medicare for All and I’m going to work towards that goal.

KARL: OK, so that means ultimately you are fine with eliminating all private health insurance including what’s been negotiated by unions?

BOOKER: No, I never said that and you know this, you know this.

KARL: Bernie Sanders bill does say that there will be no duplicative private health insurance.  It’s right there.  It’s right there.  You’re a co-sponsor.

Meanwhile, The Wall Street Journal reports that Congressional Democrats – who won their House majority on a platform of protecting and improving the Affordable Care Act (ACA) – are largely steering clear of costly, controversial Medicare for all proposals to repeal the ACA and start from scratch with a one-size-fits-all government-run health care system:

While Democrats on the presidential campaign trail are proposing a fundamental rethinking of … health-care policy, in the House, the party is reaffirming policy positions carved out under the Obama administration … While the House has held a hearing on Medicare For All, the House’s Democratic leadership has no plans to hold a vote on the measure.  Many moderate Democrats do not support Medicare for All, wary of its potential costs and of Republican attacks that it is too extreme.



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