Kamala Harris Unveils 'Medicare For All' Plan That Preserves Private Insurance

Bernie Sanders funny hat

Bernie Sanders funny hat

The eyes of the political world will be on Detroit as Democratic candidates for president take the stage for two nights of debates. Harris aims to be inclusive of private insurance but is insistent there must be more government oversight.

Appearing on CNN's State of the Union with Jake Tapper Sunday morning, Senator Bernie Sanders responded to claims that Medicare for All would necessarily raise the cost of living for middle-class Americans. Kamala Harris of hijacking the Medicare for All label to push an alternative that would fail to fundamentally overhaul America's for-profit healthcare system. Her Medium post explains, to pay for Medicare for All, "I would tax Wall Street stock trades at 0.2%, bond trades at 0.1%, and derivative transactions at 0.002%" and "end foreign tax shelters".

"I look at this issue through a fairly simple prism: each night, millions of Americans wake up at 3 o'clock in the morning anxious about some aspect of their health care", said Harris, "How am I going to afford a $5,000 deductible just for walking my child into the emergency room because their fever won't go down?" Harris is proposing a 10-year phase-in period, as opposed to Sanders' plan, which called for a four-year transition.

The major deficiency at the heart of Harris' healthcare plan-which to its credit goes beyond most public option plans-is that, like them, it gives a central role to the private insurance industry, via a massively expanded "Medicare Advantage" system. Health insurance, she said, was a pain to deal with.

"Instead of completely replacing private coverage with a government-run, single-payer system based on traditional Medicare", the New York Times reported, "Ms. Harris would allow people to choose plans modeled on Medicare Advantage, which would be run not by the government but by private insurers".

"If [private insurers] want to play by our rules, they can be in the system", Harris wrote in the post. "If not, they have to get out", Harris is expected to write in a post on the online publishing platform Medium.

That's a big difference from Sanders' plan, under which any insurance that duplicates the coverage provided by his Medicare for All system would be banned.

The 10-year transition also allows her to hide the true cost of the plan.

Harris also got hit from the left over her health care tightrope walk. She would also tax offshore corporate income at the same rate as domestic corporate income. And she has ruled out tax increases on middle-income Americans, an idea to which Sanders has expressed openness in exchange for lowering the price of health coverage. She'll remain a co-sponsor of the bill introduced by Sen.

Sanders said this month that the sweeping overhaul of the USA health system he envisions could cost up to $40 trillion over a decade, and he has said that one option for paying for part of that hefty price would be a 4% tax hike on families making more than $29,000 each year.

Splinter's Libby Watson argued in an analysis of Harris's plan Monday that there "should be no role for profit in the healthcare system, and the level of profit that insurance companies now enjoy-the top insurers raked in more than $7 billion in profits in just one quarter last year-is obscene". While Harris would still replace the Affordable Care Act with a single-payer health plan for all Americans, she is splitting with Sanders on some of the key details. Though Harris said she wants her version to clear certain "benchmarks", she did not immediately identify what those benchmarks would be. That's because most Americans don't have complex interactions with the medical system or their health coverage in any given year. Then, at last month's Democratic primary debate, she raised her hand to signal an answer of yes about eliminating private plans; the following day, she backtracked again, saying she'd misunderstood the question. Her plan is less drastic (and with a less drastic timeline) than Sanders' plan, but could mean much bigger changes than, for example, a public option plan like those that Biden, South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg, and former Texas Rep. Beto O'Rourke favor. In recent weeks, former vice president Joe Biden, a Democratic presidential rival, accused Harris of wanting to do away with the Affordable Care Act as part of her support of Medicare-for-all.