WASHINGTON – The fallout continues after Senator Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) repeatedly claimed in an interview with CNN’s Jake Tapper that the Medicare for all legislation introduced by her fellow 2020 presidential hopeful Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), of which she is a co-sponsor, “does not get rid of insurance, it does not get rid of insurance.” In fact, as the Morning Consult reported last week, protecting Americans’ private coverage is “in direct contradiction to Medicare for All.”
The Washington Post’s fact-checker writes that when it comes to her plan’s elimination of private coverage, Senator Harris’s “language is slippery. She could more forthrightly admit that the health plan she supports envisions virtually no role for the private insurance now used by nearly 220 million Americans.”
As of 2017, according to the Census Bureau, 67 percent of Americans — 217 million people — received health insurance through a private plan, mostly through their employer … Sanders himself has been clear that he sees no role left for private insurance … Section 107 would make it illegal for any private health insurer to sell coverage that duplicated benefits under the law or for any employer to duplicate the benefits, but adds that nothing on the proposed law would prohibit the sale of health insurance for benefits not covered under the bill. Okay, but the bill proposes to cover just about everything … It’s worth noting that the Sanders plan would be more sweeping in its coverage than just about any existing universal health-care system. For instance, Canadians must buy private insurance for prescription drugs, dentists and optometry, while Britain has a parallel private system that about 10 percent of the population participates in … Call us skeptical, but Section 107 looks like a loophole for single-payer supporters to claim that private insurance is not being eliminated, even as the main sponsor says he wants to put health insurance companies out of the business. There is virtually nothing left on the table but a few crumbs. Harris called it “supplemental insurance,” which sounds a lot like Medigap policies, but the reality is likely far different than that.
Meanwhile, an analysis by NBC News notes that, under Medicare for all, other than for “a handful of items like cosmetic surgery … the only option is Medicare.” Senator Harris’s answer, they write, is “likely to confuse voters who want to know what happens to their health care if the single-payer bill becomes law.”
A viewer watching might assume that Harris, by objecting to Tapper’s characterization, is saying that their own private insurance plans would not be eliminated under the Medicare for All bill she supports. That’s not the case. In fact, the bill would outright ban private insurance that provides similar coverage to the new Medicare for All plans after a short transition period. That means everyone with comprehensive employee benefits or a private plan through the Affordable Care Act today would be moved onto Medicare.
Despite Senator Harris’s attempts to argue otherwise, there is no controversy as to whether Medicare for all, of which she is a co-sponsor, eliminates private coverage. “At the heart of the ‘Medicare for all’ proposals championed by Senator Bernie Sanders and many Democrats is a revolutionary idea: Abolish private health insurance,” The New York Times recently reported in a story they aptly headlined: “Medicare for All Would Abolish Private Insurance. ‘There’s No Precedent in American History.’”