Harris on Private Health Insurance: 'Let's Eliminate All of That'

January 29, 2019

Sen. Kamala Harris (D., Calif.) called for the elimination of private health insurance plans during a televised town hall hosted by CNN in Des Moines, Iowa. The Democratic presidential candidate also repeated her support for "Medicare for all."

A self-employed woman from Des Moines asked Harris about her solution for ensuring people have access to affordable, quality health care.

"I believe the solution—and I actually feel very strongly about this—is that we need to have Medicare for All. That's just the bottom line," Harris said, drawing applause from the crowd. "And I'll say this, and this is I think why you're also asking this question. What we know is that to live in a civil society, to be true to the ideals and the spirit of who we say we are as a country, we have to appreciate and understand that access to health care should not be thought of as a privilege. It should be understood to be a right."

"It is inhumane to make people go through a system where they cannot literally receive the benefit of what medical science can offer because some insurance company has decided it doesn't meet their bottom line in terms of their profit motivation. That is inhumane," Harris continued.

CNN anchor Jake Tapper, who moderated the event, asked if people who like their insurance would get to keep it.

"So just to follow up on that, and correct me if I'm wrong; to reiterate, you support the 'Medicare for All' bill, initially co-sponsored by Senator Bernie Sanders. You're also a cosponsor. I believe it will totally eliminate private insurance. So for people out there who like their insurance, they don't get to keep it?" Tapper asked.

"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 responded.

A study by the libertarian Mercatus Center projected that Sanders' plan would increase government health care spending by $32.6 trillion over ten years, and other estimates have been similar. It would also require enormous tax increases to replace what employers and consumers now pay for health care.

The Kaiser Family Foundation found that Americans' view of the single-payer plan "can shift significantly after hearing information." Fifty-six percent of those surveyed support "Medicare for All," while 42 percent oppose it.

Fifty-eight percent oppose the plan, however, if told it would eliminate private health insurance plans, and 60 percent oppose it if it requires higher taxes. Seventy percent of those surveyed expressed opposition to "Medicare for All" if it would lead to delays in getting some tests or treatments.