Warren Dodges on Whether She Supports Eliminating Private Health Insurance

January 31, 2019

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D., Mass.) dodged questions on Wednesday about whether she, like her colleague and 2020 opponent Sen. Kamala Harris (D., Calif.), supports eliminating private health insurance in favor of "Medicare for all."

Bloomberg's "What'd You Miss" co-host Joe Weisenthal asked Warren if private health insurance plans would exist in her vision for the American health care system.

"Is there room for private health insurance in your vision of the ideal American health care system?" Weisenthal asked.

"Let's start with the battle we're having now and talk about the things we need to be doing, because I don't want to lose sight of this," Warren said. "It is good to talk about our overall goal, and here's our goal, this is what distinguishes Democrats from Republicans: Democrats believe health care is a basic human right."

Warren went on to talk about how Republicans are trying to sabotage the Affordable Care Act while Democrats are working to preserve and expand it. She never answered whether Americans could keep their private insurance plans under her health care proposals.

Harris, one of Warren's many opponents in the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination, called for the elimination of private health insurance plans during a televised town hall hosted by CNN in Des Moines, Iowa. While talking about her support for "Medicare for all," Harris revealed that her plan would eliminate the private insurance market.

"Well, listen, 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. Who of us has not had that situation where you've got to wait for approval, and the doctor says, ‘Well, I don't know if your insurance company is going to cover this.' Let's eliminate all of that. Let's move on," Harris said.

CNN reported that Harris walked back her comments, but staffers for the California Democrat disputed the walk-back. They said Harris is for eliminating private insurance in favor for a single public insurer but is open to more moderate plans that would allow for private insurance.

Harris's comments have divided Democrats on whether "Medicare for all" requires the elimination of the private insurance industry.

Weisenthal asked Warren again if her plan would include private insurance, and again she avoided giving a straight-forward answer.

"Right now, your vision for 'Medicare for all,' would it all be a public option, or would include private insurance?" Weisenthal asked.

"Right now, there are multiple bills on the floor in the United States Senate. I've signed on to 'Medicare for all.' I've signed onto another one that gives an option for buying into Medicaid. There are different ways we can get there, but the key has to be: always keep the center of the bullseye in mind, and that is affordable health care for every American," Warren said.