At one point in time, Sen. Kamala Harris was a co-sponsor of a plan by self-proclaimed Democratic socialist Sen. Bernie Sanders to provide Medicare for All.
But Harris, Biden’s newly minted running mate in his presidential bid, has wavered on where she stands on healthcare. Her own healthcare proposal takes aspects from Medicare for All, but allows private insurance companies to participate.
The biggest question critics have about her pitch: How much will it cost?
GOP political consultant Anthony Angelini called her healthcare plan a mistake and said the economy would be “essentially bankrupt” under it.
Liberal think tank Urban Institute estimated a Medicare for All program would cost $34 trillion over the course of a decade. Harris didn’t stick a price tag on the variation she unveiled last year.
Dr. Tom Borelli, a columnist and TV-radio commentator for several conservative platforms, said Harris’ plan is no different than what Sanders, the two-time presidential candidate, put forward.
“In looking at her plan and her ideas, Sen. Kamala Harris is really Sen. Bernie Sanders with a skirt,” Borelli said. “She signed onto Bernie’s Medicare for All plan.”
Angelini said her plan to nationalize the healthcare system amid the coronavirus pandemic “would be quite possibly the greatest economic blunder of the modern era.”
“Harris has mentioned multiple times that she is in favor of abolishing private healthcare. I can simply think of nothing less practical than that,” he said.
Her support of Sanders’ plan, which would cover all Americans with a government-administered health care plan, was evident early on in her own bid for the presidency.
"Nobody should have to worry about paying a medical bill to stay alive. Health care should be a right. It's why I support Medicare-for-All," Harris tweeted in May 2019.
During a CNN town hall, the California senator reaffirmed that her idea was to dump private health insurance.
“The idea is that everyone gets access to medical care, and you don't have to go through the process of going through an insurance company, having them give you approval, going through the paperwork, all of the delay that may require. Let's eliminate all of that. Let's move on," she said.
During a primary debate, she raised her hand when the potential Democratic Party presidential candidates were asked who would get rid of private health insurance. Only later did she say she'd misunderstood the question.
Harris said she would be against any policy that would prevent a person from having access to healthcare because of citizenship status. She has also said she is against "waste" and "bureaucracy" in private insurance.
Borelli said her plan shows Harris is living up to the title of most liberal senator. He said that is concerning, since polls suggest many Americans don’t think Joe Biden, who would assume the presidency at the age of 78, will be able to serve a full 4-year term if elected.
“She is almost running for president,” he said. “That is what is different.”
But Harris has attempted to distance herself from Sanders' Medicare for All plan. During a fundraiser for her campaign last year, she told donors why she'd changed her mind on supporting the plan.
As Newsweek reported, she said at the time that she has "not been comfortable” with the plan.
"I think almost every member of the United States Senate who's running for president and many others, have signed on to a variety of plans in the Senate. And I have done the same," she said at the fundraiser, according to her campaign. "All of them are good ideas, which is why I support them. And I support Medicare for All. But as you may have noticed, over the course of many months, I've not been comfortable with Bernie's plan, the Medicare for All plan."
Her own spin on healthcare would allow private insurers to offer plans. It would also take a 10-year phased-in approach, which is longer than Sanders’ four-year transition proposal.
Harris’ version of a healthcare plan would, indeed, operate more like the current Medicare system, according to NPR.
That means Americans would have the option of purchasing government-administrated Medicare plans or ones from private companies, which is an option known as Medicare Advantage.
In order to pay for the plan, Harris proposed taxing households earning more than $100,000. That threshold would be increased in “high-cost areas.”
Sanders’ plan would tax households earning over $29,000 a 4% premium. To come up with additional funding, Harris suggests taxing financial transactions such as stock and bond trades.
Harris said her proposal would bring American health costs down, but it is unclear by how much.
As a senator, she has co-sponsored the Choose Medicare Act, the Medicare at 50 Act and the State Public Option Act.
The Choose Medicare Act would create public health plans in the individual, small-group and large-group markets. The Medicare at 50 Act would allow people to buy into the program at age 50 instead of 65, the current enrollment threshold.
The State Public Option Act would allow residents who are not already eligible to buy into a state Medicaid plan.
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