In her CNN town hall in Iowa, Senator Kamala Harris (D-California) didn’t shy away from her support for Medicare for All, and put private health insurance companies on notice.
Des Moines, Iowa resident Renee Welk, whom moderator Jake Tapper described as self-employed and having trouble finding an affordable health insurance plan, initiated the exchange by asking a question of Sen. Harris about what would happen to private health insurance companies under a Medicare for All system.
“What is your solution to ensure that people have access to quality healthcare at an affordable price, and does that solution involve cutting insurance companies as we know them out of the equation?” Welk asked.
“We need to have Medicare for All. That’s just the bottom line,” Sen. Harris said to loud applause. “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 healthcare should not be thought of as a privilege, it should be understood to be a right.”
“Having a system that makes a difference in terms of who receives what based on your income is unconscionable, it is cruel, and in many situations that I have witnessed, inhumane,” she continued. “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.”
“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,” @kamalaharris says when asked by Iowa voters what she would do to ensure affordable health care. #HarrisTownHall https://t.co/0EMGUsQFut pic.twitter.com/4nfddvuOuH
— CNN (@CNN) January 29, 2019
The Hill’s Peter Sullivan captured a moment not featured in the CNN video, in which Harris said point-blank that she doesn’t support the continued existence of private health insurance companies in a Medicare for All system.
“Let’s eliminate all of that. Let’s move on,” Harris said.
Kamala Harris asked by Jake Tapper, what about people who like their current health insurance. They don't get to keep it?
Harris says no, who likes dealing with insurance companies. "Let's eliminate all of that. Let's move on."
— Peter Sullivan (@PeterSullivan4) January 29, 2019
The idea of expanding Medicare for all Americans to be able to use the program was first championed by Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont) in his bid for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2016. It has since been embraced by nearly every Democratic candidate currently running for president in the current cycle, and is seen as a litmus test for any candidate seeking to win the support of the Democratic base.
According to Sen. Sanders’ website, Medicare for All would actually end up being $6 trillion cheaper than the current healthcare system. Americans would no longer be on the hook for monthly premiums and deductibles, and even when paying slightly higher taxes, there would still be a net savings without the cost of private health insurance companies. Even the Koch-funded Mercatus Center at George Mason University found that Medicare for All would be a net savings compared to the current system.
In a crowded Democratic field, Sen. Harris is seen as an early frontrunner, according to the latest Daily Kos straw poll, winning 27 percent of the vote. It is unclear at this time whether or not Sen. Sanders will throw his hat in the ring, though his influence on the party is unmistakeable.
Shara Smith is publisher of Grit Post. She writes about politics, economics, and social justice issues. Her background is in communications and management. She founded Grit Post after a long career in academia and the nonprofit sector. Follow her on Twitter @writershara or email her at info AT gritpost DOT com.