A Brief History of Kamala Harris’ Answers About Whether She Would Ban Private Health Insurance

Sen. Kamala Harris (D–Calif.) is definitely against abolishing private health insurance. Unless she’s for it. She’s probably against it, though. Maybe.

The Democratic presidential hopeful has a topsy-turvy history when it comes to her plan for government-run health care, having seemingly changed her mind more than once on whether private insurance companies would be permitted to operate under her version of a Medicare for All proposal.

During her time in the Senate, Harris co-sponsored the public option spearheaded by Sen. Brian Schatz (D–Hawaii), as well as the “Medicare X” plan championed by Sens. Tim Kaine (D–Va.) and Michael Bennet (D–Colo.)—all of whom would preserve the private insurance industry in some form. But she also put her weight behind the health care bill introduced by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I–Vt.)—who is seeking to eradicate for-profit insurers—casting doubt on what Harris herself would do if elected president.

As she told Jake Tapper in January during a CNN town hall:

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 all the paperwork, all of the delay that may require. Who of us have not had that situation where you have to wait for approval and the doctor says, ‘I don’t know if your insurance company is going to cover this.’

Let’s eliminate all of that. Let’s move on.

But the candidate walked back those comments the next day after a barrage of critics warned that such a move would throw the health care market—and her hopes for the presidency—into chaos. According to CNN, Harris’ national press secretary, Ian Sams, “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.”

But then Sams muddied the waters once more:

Medicare-for-all is the plan that she believes will solve the problem and get all Americans covered. Period. 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.

At the second Democratic debate Thursday night, Harris was one of two candidates to raise her hand when asked if she would extinguish private insurers. She shared an anecdote:

We have to think about how this affects real people. And the reality of how this affects real people is captured in a story that many of us heard and I will paraphrase. There is on any night in America, a parent who has seen their child has a temperature that is out of control and calls 911, what should I do? Take the child to the emergency room. They get in their car and they drive and they are sitting in the parking lot outside of the emergency room looking at the sliding glass doors with their hand on the forehead of their child knowing if they walk through the sliding glass doors even though they have insurance, they will be out a $5,000 deductible when they walk through the doors. That’s what insurance companies are doing! Only in America today.

But Friday morning, she sought to clarify that position again on Morning Joe, telling viewers that she had misheard the question:

No, no, I do not [support that]. I am a proponent of Medicare for All. Private insurance will exist for supplemental coverage.

Glad we got that cleared up.

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