Politics

Joaquin Castro Won’t Say Whether He Supports Harris’s Medicare for All Plan, Elimination of Private Insurance Plans

Democratic Rep. Joaquin Castro (Texas) on Tuesday wouldn't say whether he supported Sen. Kamala Harris' (D., Calif.) call for the elimination of private health insurance plans and her repeated support of "Medicare for all."

Castro appeared on CNN's "Situation Room" with host Wolf Blitzer, where he was asked about Harris's proposals at a town hall in Iowa on Monday night.

"She outlined her vision of a Medicare for all plan, but also said that that Medicare for all plan would eliminate private insurance plans altogether here in the United States. Do you support that plan?" Blitzer asked.

Castro wouldn't say whether he supported the plan, but instead said he would like to see it proposed in Congress. His twin brother Julián Castro is running for president.

"The thing is I would like to see these plans proposed in Congress, have hearings on them through the committees before we take a position on any particular plan, whether it's from a sitting member of Congress or somebody that's running for president," Castro said.

"Fair enough," Blitzer said.

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

"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.

Harris faced backlash Tuesday morning by Republicans and Democrats alike, prompting Harris' adviser and national press secretary Ian Sams to suggest Harris is willing to consider alternate routes to a single payer system, CNN reported Tuesday night.

As the furor grew, a Harris adviser on Tuesday signaled that the candidate would also be open to the more moderate health reform plans, which would preserve the industry, being floated by other congressional Democrats. It represents a compromise position that risks angering "Medicare-for-all" proponents, who view eliminating private health insurance as key to enacting their comprehensive reform.

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"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."

Their description of Harris' views is backed up by her record in the Senate, where she co-sponsored Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders' "Medicare for all" bill, which would phase out for-profit insurers, but also the less aggressive approaches proposed by Hawaii Sen. Brian Schatz, whose bill would effectively create a "public option" by allowing certain Americans to buy-in to Medicaid, and a plan from Sens. Jeff Merkley and Chris Murphy that would allow individuals to enroll in a new form of Medicare and employers to purchase it for their workforce.