Harris Misleads on Role of Sebelius in Health Care Plan

Harris claims she didn't write it but Sebelius worked with staffers as plan was developed

July 31, 2019

Sen. Kamala Harris (D., Calif.) misled viewers at Wednesday's debate when she portrayed Kathleen Sebelius as uninvolved in writing her health insurance proposal, when her campaign told NBC News otherwise.

Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D., Hawaii) attacked Harris for her reliance on Sebelius, the former Health and Human Services Secretary, in crafting her plan. Sebelius currently sits on the board of a company called Devoted Health, which sells Medicate Advantage plans.

Gabbard said the big insurance and pharmaceutical companies had been too involved in writing health care legislation.

"Now Kamala Harris just talked about Kathleen Sebelius, who helped write her bill," she said. "This just pointed to the fatal flaw in her proposal. Sebelius works for Medicare Advantage, private insurance company, who still stands to profit under her plan."

Gabbard apparently mixed up the product, Medicare Advantage plans, and the company, Devoted Health.

Gabbard said such interests had to be shut out of drafting health care legislation before Harris retorted.

"Unfortunately, Representative Gabbard got it wrong," Harris said. "Kathleen Sebelius did not write my plan. She endorsed it as being one of the plans that is the best to get us to a place where everyone is going to have access to health care in America."

Not interested in battling further with Gabbard, Harris shifted back to attacking Joe Biden, the frontrunner who has called for improving Obamacare and adding a public option rather than eliminating private health insurance.

However, NBC News reporter Vaughn Hillyard tweeted he was informed by a campaign aide that Sebelius worked with Harris's staff as the plan was developed.

"@KamalaHarris says Kathleen Sebelius did not write her healthcare plan but endorsed it," Hillyard tweeted. "I was told by a campaign aide this week that Sebelius worked with Harris cmpgn staff as it was being developed."

Politico reported this week that Sebelius was "consulted" on the plan:

Kathleen Sebelius, who served as secretary of Health and Human Services in the Obama administration and was consulted on Harris’ plan, blessed it as "a smart way to get to 'Medicare for All' where all individuals and employers can transition smoothly into a system that covers everyone."

Harris's vision of Medicare for All calls for building on Medicare Advantage over the next 10 years, "eventually allowing Americans to choose between the public plan and certified private Medicare plans to achieve universal coverage," Politico reported. It received sharp criticism from her opponents, including Biden and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I., Vt.).