Kamala Harris Gets Herself Into Another Mess on Medicare for All


After a dominant performance in the Thursday’s Democratic debate, Sen. Kamala Harris is clarifying her commitment last night regarding the abolishment of private health insurance.

The question, asked in both debates, was a simple one from NBC moderator Lester Holt, and, at least judging from the network’s stream, there did not appear to be any technical malfunctions that would have prevented any of the candidates from hearing it:

“Who here would abolish their private health insurance in favor of a government-run plan?” Holt asked.

Sens. Bernie Sanders and Harris were the only two on stage to raise their hands. (Marianne Williamson briefly scratched her nose, and Joe Biden tepidly lifted his hand, but seemed more to be asking the moderators for the floor.) Shortly after, Sanders, who gave a decent-but-not-great performance on the night, got into it with Sen. Michael Bennet over his Medicare For All plan.

It was Harris raising her hand in favor of abolishing private insurance that came as a surprise to most. But Harris has staked out this position before. First, after tepidly supporting the “concept” of a single-payer system, she came out for M4A in August 2017, co-sponsoring Sen. Sanders’s bill. Then, at a CNN town hall hosted by Jake Tapper this past January, Harris was asked the same (stupid) question by Tapper that every interviewer or moderator has thrown at the M4A plan: bUt WhAt AbOuT pEoPlE wHo LiKe InSuRaNcE?

In that instance, Harris responded that “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, getting approval, going through all the paperwork, all of the delay that may require… let’s eliminate all of that. Let’s move on.”

Pretty clear, right? But then Harris walked it back, which is why it was surprising when she raised her hand on Thursday—only to walk that back again.

This morning, Harris joined MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” to discuss her debate performance, and on it, host Willie Geist asked her, “once and for all, do you believe that private insurance should be eliminated in this country?”

“No,” Harris responded.

When Geist pressed her on why she raised her hand, Harris pointed to the “their,” present in Holt’s question, telling Geist that she would gladly do away with her private insurance in favor of a government-run plan, but that she would not wholly do away with the industry. It should absolutely be noted that Geist stated earlier on the show that he believes any candidate that proposes abolishing private insurance is dooming themselves in the general election.

Harris further clarified on CBS This Morning that the kind of private insurance she would be in favor of keeping around would be “supplemental” to a government program.

Splinter has reached out to the Harris campaign for clarification and comment; we will update this post if and when we receive a response.

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