[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:
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.
[. . .] 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.”
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.
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.
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.
Tonight's candidates who raised their hands to abolish private insurance: Bernie Sanders and Kamala Harris pic.twitter.com/MG58k71hUV
— Axios (@axios) June 28, 2019
Then, just 90 minutes after the debate ended:
Just asked @KamalaHarris after the debate about raising her hand to the health insurance question — she said she interpreted the Q to mean *her own* insurance plan.
Lester's question: pic.twitter.com/ZYde1pndPk
— Vaughn Hillyard (@VaughnHillyard) June 28, 2019
Harris maintained that folks should continue to opt into private supplemental insurance, as well as union members satisfied with already-negotiated health insurance plans. https://t.co/Z1zkHU1jQs
— Vaughn Hillyard (@VaughnHillyard) June 28, 2019
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.