When it comes to healthcare, Democratic 2020 hopeful Kamala Harris seems to still be struggling to get her story straight. What she truly believes seems to vacillate, especially when she is speaking to a group of wealthy donors at a fundraiser in the Hamptons, and not the American public on the debate stage.
The Daily Beast among other outlets has reported that the Democrat had waffled once again on her support for Medicare for All. “I support Medicare for All,” she told the crowd of wealthy donors. But as you may have noticed, over the course of the many months, I’ve not been comfortable with Bernie’s plan, the Medicare for All plan.”
This despite being the cosponsor of Sanders’ “Medicare for All” bill. What really seems to have Harris backpedaling faster than a rewinding video of Lance Armstrong is one of the proposed legislation’s major features — the elimination of private insurance.
In late July, she finally released her own version of a “Medicare-for-all” bill, which, in a departure from Sanders’s proposal, would maintain a role for private insurance within a universal public system. Why would she do that? As her rival and bill’s cosponsor Bernie Sanders might say, “it’s all about the Benjamins.”
In other words, Harris, who unlike Bernie who has made elimination of for-profit insurance a key part of his vision for healthcare – is afraid to piss off wealthy donors and corporate interests. In fact, David Sirota, a Sanders campaign adviser, wrote in his newly minted newsletter, Bern Notice, “The Harris flip flop is a reminder that while Medicare for All received an enthusiastic response at Bernie’s Fox News townhall in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania — it doesn’t get that kind of response on the big dollar fundraising circuit in the Hamptons.”
The debate between Harris and Sanders on the healthcare issue is partly about a difference between Sanders’s proposal, which would eliminate private insurance, and Harris’s, which would preserve a role for insurers in the health care system. But by seizing on Harris’s remarks — and the venue where she made them — the Sanders campaign is connecting their healthcare plan to their candidate’s larger argument on corporate greed.
Harris Has Been All Over the Map on Healthcare
Harris really has been all over the place on Healthcare. Before she released “her plan,” it was nearly impossible to get any consistency from the candidate on healthcare. As stated earlier, she signed on to Sanders’s single-payer Medicare-for-all bill, and soon after, she was on the trail, publicly backing his idea to get rid of private insurance entirely, saying “let’s eliminate all of that. Let’s move on,” at a CNN town hall in January. She then walked that back, saying that she meant getting rid of “bureaucracy.”
Later on in April, at another CNN townhall, she emphasized that there would be some role for private insurance under Sanders’s bill, even though the Sanders Medicare for All Act would reduce private insurance’s role to things like cosmetic surgery or premium hospital rooms. And then, during the Democratic debate in June, Harris raised her hand when NBC’s Lester Holt asked, “Who here would abolish their private health insurance in favorite of a government-run plan?”
But she then walked that back to say she misunderstood the question, saying she personally would prefer to enroll in public insurance.
In fact, since becoming an upper-tier contender for the Democratic nomination, every time she seemingly endorsed the actual bill she cosponsored, she’s eventually walked it back.
On the other hand, Sanders has remained steadfast in painting corporate America as the “enemy of the people.” He sees a for-profit health care system as fundamentally broken. His campaign platform is centered on fighting the greed of major corporate interests, whether pharmaceutical companies, the fossil fuel industry, or private insurance industry.
In a speech about Medicare-for-all in June, he pledged to reject money from the insurance and drug companies, and called on other presidential candidates to do the same.
For Sanders’s campaign — healthcare, like everything else is all about his perceived influence of the wealthy. But, in Harris’s case he may be right given her propensity to flip-flop on the issue.