Democratic opponents take aim at Kamala Harris' healthcare plan

Kenny Tucker
August 1, 2019

The health care proposal represents a shift from Harris's earlier support for largely eliminating private insurance, a position many mainstream Democrats have suggested would be politically disastrous in an election against President Donald Trump.

The poll, released Tuesday, also examines opinions on a generic government-run "public option" health plan that would be available to all Americans and compete with private insurance.

"Effectively, this kind of plan would give private insurance companies the option of selling Medicare plans to everyone in the population", he told CQ Roll Call. It also means that her plan wouldn't take full effect until well after Harris leaves office, meaning she can blame her successor for any problems that occur during the implementation phase. It provides further evidence for the latter explanation. It left Harris back in the uncomfortable spot she's been for months: explaining herself on health care.

"After she launched her campaign for president, Senator Harris confirmed her support for the Sanders bill, but then, after being pressed about the ramifications of denying voters the choice of private health insurance plans, began a long and confusing pattern of equivocating about her stance on health care in America", Kate Bedingfield, a top Biden campaign official. Under her plan, health coverage remains something you must "buy into" through public or private insurance options, not a human right automatically provided to everyone and paid for via progressive taxation.

Harris says there would still be room for employer-sponsored coverage under her plan.

In April, she again signed onto Mr. Sanders' plan in the new Congress, saying at a CNN town hall that month in response to a question about private insurance, "let's eliminate all of that" and "move on". Now she has to make a case for it.

While the newest numbers show support shifting among both Republicans and Democrats, the share of Democrats who said they "strongly favor" a Medicare for All plan has dropped to 42%, from 54% in April.

"Essentially, we would allow private insurance to offer a plan in the Medicare system, but they will be subject to strict requirements to ensure it lowers costs and expands services", she wrote in the Medium post.

Like Obama's "like your plan" pledge, which PolitiFact dubbed the "Lie of the Year" for 2013, Harris' plan rests on optimistic scenarios that have little possibility of coming to fruition. It would still disrupt coverage for millions of people. But she shies away from any hint that average Americans might actually have to pay for their health care, rejecting Sanders' idea to tax households making above $29,000 an additional 4 percent income-based premium.

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Speaking to Harris" goal to achieve Medicare for All in 10 years, Sanders said, "We think that four years is as long as it should be, not 10 years'.

She added that expanding the transition window would lower the overall cost of the program.

The Biden campaign estimates that the plan will cost $750 billion over 10 years.

It also tees up a debate with Biden over how to pay for her plan. It now calls for expanded coverage to include and pay for long-term care, as well as no co-pays for doctors visits.

Nor has Harris specified a way to pay for her plan. Harris says, "I believe this hits the middle class too hard".

Mr Sanders has said as recently as this month that the sweeping overhaul of the United States health system he envisions could cost up to 40 trillion U.S. dollars over a decade, and he has said that one option for paying for it would be a 4% tax hike on families making more than 29,000 USA dollars each year. Harris is describing a system that does not exist.

The release of the plan comes two days before Harris stands center stage next to former Vice President Joe Biden in Detroit at the second round of Democratic primary debates. Even liberals were criticizing her incoherence on the issue.

Harris's proposal did not offer many details about how the transition would work or how it would be financed, but Harris vowed not to raise taxes on families making less than $100,000 to pay for the plan. Her new plan is pitched as a way of answering tough questions, but it's just another way of dodging them.

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