Patterico's Pontifications


Kamala Harris on Private Insurance: No, Yes, Sort Of, No, Huh?

Filed under: General — JVW @ 1:26 am

[guest post by JVW]

The consensus debate winner from last night’s second Democrat festival of gasbaggery, California Senator Kamala Harris, has been all over the map regarding what, if any, role private health insurance plans will play in her version of Medicaid for All. Witness:

January 29

California Democratic Sen. Kamala Harris, speaking during a town hall Monday night, vowed to eliminate all private health care insurance for approximately 150 million Americans if she is elected president.

Asked by CNN host Jake Tapper if people who like their current health care insurance could keep it under Harris’ “Medicare for All” plan, Harris indicated they could not — but that, in turn, they would experience health care without any delays.

January 30, the very next day

[. . .] Harris’s national press secretary Ian Sams and an unnamed advisor told CNN that she would also be open to pursuing more moderate healthcare reforms that would allow the 177 million Americans currently using private health insurance plans to keep them.

“Medicare-for-all is the plan that she believes will solve the problem and get all Americans covered. Period,” Sams told CNN. “She has co-sponsored other pieces of legislation that she sees as a path to getting us there, but this is the plan she is running on.”

May 12

Tapper asked about her support for Medicare For All and her call in a January town hall on CNN that she supports “eliminating” the private health insurance industry.

“That’s not what I meant!” Harris said.

“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.”

And then later in that interview:

TAPPER: OK. [The Sanders bill which Harris supports] doesn’t get rid of all insurance.

HARRIS: OK. Right.

TAPPER: … but for all essential health care benefits.

HARRIS: But — but why? Ask the question, why?

The question — the answer to that question is because Medicare for all and the vision of what it will be includes an expansion of coverage. So, Medicare for all will include vision. It will include dental. It will include hearing aids.

TAPPER: There are a lot of members of unions, for example, who like their private insurance…

HARRIS: Right. Right.

TAPPER: … and the plans that have been negotiated on their behalf and don’t want that replaced.

HARRIS: Right.

Well, listen, let me just tell you something. I completely agree with those members of organized labor who have negotiated for plans and have, in those negotiation processes — processes, often give enough what could have been higher wages in exchange for a higher coverage for health care.

June 27, earlier tonight

When the Democratic candidates at Thursday night’s debate were asked if their Medicare for All plan would eliminate private health insurance, two people’s hands went up: Bernie Sanders and Kamala Harris. Elizabeth Warren and Bill de Blasio were the only candidates to take that position last night.

Then, just 90 minutes after the debate ended:

In Senator Harris’s defense, it was a very poorly-worded question. But the question begins with “many people watching at home” which is the subject of the sentence, so when the object of the follow-up sentence is the pronoun “their,” it seems that it ought to refer back to “many people watching at home,” not “we narcissists on the stage tonight,” though, in fairness, it’s unreasonable to expect politicians not to be thinking of themselves first. Yet somehow it seems that nine of the ten participants understood what was being asked (though, in all honesty, we can’t ever be fully sure where Marianne Williamson is concerned), so Sen. Harris is probably the only candidate over whose head the question apparently passed.

So maybe, just maybe, Kamala Harris has a coherent and consistent plan for the role of private health insurance in her Medicaid for All scheme, but I kind of think her problem is that she is just trying to be everything to all extremes of her party’s disparate coalition. Expectations seem to be that her strong performance last night will raise her up in the polls and solidify herself in a Top Four with Biden, Sanders, and Warren. If so, she may find that the long knives are now pointed at her, and her notoriously sloppy and inconsistent answers might not cut it any longer.


22 Responses to “Kamala Harris on Private Insurance: No, Yes, Sort Of, No, Huh?”

  1. I’ll just leave this here as an overnight post, in case anyone is up and reading.

    JVW (54fd0b)

  2. Just a thought…
    The structure of the camel’s foot is well-adapted for the creature’s environment. The wide, spreading toes keep the camel from sinking into loose and shifting sands, and the webbing between the toes unites them into a single surface to further resist sinking. The thick sole provides a barrier against the hot desert sands, protecting the camel from being burned as it walks. The inner ball of fat also helps, as it has an insulting and cushioning effect.

    mg (8cbc69)

  3. “it was a very poorly-worded question”

    No, it was a very carefully worded question. Its vagary is intentional: it’s designed to let Democratic candidates off the hook.

    slobodo (f0d6ab)

  4. She had her ‘parents met in Selma’ moment, she went to school in Canada.

    Narciso (30eb7e)

  5. Politicians talk out of both sides of their mouth. Who knew?

    Bored Lawyer (998177)

  6. What evidence is there that she will FIGHT To retain private Health Insurance? ZERO. As for Harris being some sort of “moderate” who’s being PUSHED to the Left, what evidence is there? Except people want to believe it.

    rcocean (1a839e)

  7. At some point, it would be useful to hear a candidate state that healthcare services will always be rationed in some manner. Private insurance is one way of rationing, although it is admittedly imperfect, correlating service with income or employment and having no allowances for availability of care. Public insurance is another way of rationing, in this case correlating service with age (Medicare) or need (Medicaid). It’s also imperfect, being unavailable to many who need it and being unaffordable in the longer term and, in practice unsupportable because it requires many more doctors and nurses than we now have.

    If the goal of providing health services to the public is to be regarded as a right, then we ought to consider if the reactive care/insurance approach which has led to increased specialization and increased cost (think of the added complexity of healthcare coding) is a viable long-term template for developing public policy.

    John B Boddie (72f331)

  8. Kamala Harris correctly interpreted the question as to what they would ideally do; she’s claiming here that it won’t pass, so people shouldn’t worry about it.

    Sammy Finkelman (4eddd7)

  9. Kamala Harris is clever. She knows that the LA Times, LOOOOVEEES her. It even ran a story on her Spotify list (“has great taste”).

    She knows the new voter too: not the plumbers, defense contractor employees of old California. New California voters absorb platitudes like water, (and only came here for soap). They only want to know: (1), how much you’ll spend for them; (2) how much you’ll spend for really good causes, like the bullet train, or STEM cell research, (3) how many non-violent felons will be released because they’re non-violent and its mean to keep them in prison, (4), how many undocumented citizens we’ll accept as our never diminishing obligation to humanity.

    The national media will support her too. Reporters are extinct. “Journalists” will echo her sentiments, report on her personality, and excuse her failings. She is not Trump and is therefore good.

    She’s a real player. Republicans who think otherwise are not in touch, but what else is new.

    Harcourt Fenton Mudd (6b1442)

  10. June 28:

    California Sen. Kamala Harris said Friday that she misinterpreted a question about abolishing private health insurance at Thursday night’s 2020 Democratic debate, despite the fact that she raised her hand when asked if she would eliminate it.

    She seems like the perfect successor for Obama.

    DRJ (15874d)

  11. More like Hillary Clinton.

    In the meantime, what’s the truth about where she attended school?

    It seems like she is right.

    Kamala Harris was born on October 20, 1964, in Oakland, California, to a Tamil Indian mother and a Jamaican father…Her family lived in Berkeley, California, where both of her parents attended graduate school…Harris’s parents divorced when she was seven, and her mother was granted custody of the children by court-ordered settlement.[9][7] As an elementary school student, she benefited from school integration.[16] After the divorce, when Harris was 12,[17] her mother moved with the children to Montreal, Québec, Canada, where Shyamala accepted a position doing research at Jewish General Hospital and teaching at McGill University.[18][19]

    After graduating from Westmount High School in Westmount, Quebec in 1981,[20][21] Harris attended Howard University in Washington, D.C., where she majored in political science and economics.

    Sammy Finkelman (4eddd7)

  12. Footnote 16 from the Wikipedia article:

    In the years following the 1963 report, the school district and its community debated the best course toward integration, and in 1968, it started busing students between neighborhoods to achieve integrated schools from elementary through high school.

    So she was indeed, the second class, and Biden was right, it was a decision by the local government.

    Sammy Finkelman (4eddd7)

  13. Kamala Harris has always been in the top four for the simple reason that she is guaranteed a large number of delegates from California on the first Dem Primary Super Tuesday.

    The rumor mill states that she’s the one with Obama’s backing too, if she proves herself as things go on.

    Ingot9455 (afdf95)

  14. Kamala Harris has always been in the top four for the simple reason that she is guaranteed a large number of delegates from California on the first Dem Primary Super Tuesday.

    Maybe, but I think a poll taken last week, pre-debate, had her behind both Sanders and Biden and with Warren pretty close to her. Perhaps that will change after last night’s performance.

    JVW (54fd0b)

  15. JVW, the poll is at

    Biden 22
    Warren 18
    Sanders 17
    Harris 13
    Buttigieg 10

    The ideology breakdown is interesting:
    VERY LIBERAL: Warren 32, Sanders 21, Harris 15, Biden 12, Buttigieg 8
    SOMEWHAT LIBERAL: Biden 19, Warren 18, Sanders 17, Harris 13, Buttigieg 13
    MODERATE/CONSERVATIVE: Biden 36, Sanders 13, Harris 12, Buttigieg 9, Warren 5

    there’s no region of the state where Harris leads, and her strongest region is the central valley. biden leads in LA county, orange/sandiego, other socal, and the central valley; warren leads in the bay area; sanders leads in other norcal.

    biden leads among people 50+, sanders leads with fortysomethings and twentysomethings, warren leads with thirtysomethings.

    among african-americans, biden leads with 34%, Warren at 32% and Harris and Buttigieg at 14%. that number will probably change after last night.

    aphrael (e0cdc9)

  16. how can warren be considered more to the left of sanders, that’s unpossible,

    narciso (d1f714)

  17. narciso: the numbers mean that californians who describe themselves as very liberal are more likely to support warren than sanders.

    aphrael (e0cdc9)

  18. 15. 16.

    Warren is actually more Socialist than Sanders. She wants a wealth tax. Also is less practical.

    Sammy Finkelman (385c0e)

  19. 13. We’re talking about polling results, not a future’s market for the nomination, but still, being from Caiforniaa should help her in polls.

    Sammy Finkelman (385c0e)

  20. Its odd that Harris would have support in the central valley, which is the only sensible

    Narciso (30eb7e)

  21. SO, are union members going to e exempt from the draconian taxation required for everyone to pay everyone else’s medical bills?

    Unasked: Will current Medicare recipients be allows to keep their current Medicare plans?

    Kevin M (61459c)

  22. Narciso:

    (1) we’re talking about the democrats in the central valley, who are largely either (a) clustered in sacramento, davis, and chico, (b) bay area refugees who moved into the central valley to buy a home but who commute into the bay area and have significant cultural ties there, or (c) hispanic.

    (2) in 2016, harris carried all of the central valley counties except fresno, madera, and glenn.

    aphrael (e0cdc9)

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