Medicare for All

Kamala Harris Is Dodging Hard Questions About Medicare for All

Single-payer would eliminate private health insurance as we know it today.


In theory, Medicare for All is more popular than ever. Polls show that a majority of the country favors the idea, which, as proposed by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I–Vt.), would set up a single-payer health care system that would make the government the financier of nearly all health care in the United States. Some surveys have even found that a surprisingly large percentage of Republicans are open to the idea.

But those same surveys consistently reveal that support for Medicare for All falls apart as soon people hear that it would raise taxes, result in delays for care, and eliminate private insurance—all of which are likely outcomes of a transition to single-payer. The public, in other words, favors the non-specific, cost-free idea of Medicare for All, but not the practical reality and the many trade-offs that it would necessarily entail.

This represents something of a problem for Democratic presidential hopefuls, who want to be seen backing Medicare for All, which is popular, but not its consequences, which aren't. Some, like Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D–Minn.), have attempted to thread the needle by saying that Medicare for All is "aspirational," or, like Sen. Corey Booker (D–N.J.), painting it as a long-term goal rather than a pragmatic possibility. Others, like current poll-leader Joe Biden, have said they support an expansion of Medicare, allowing more people to buy in—but not the strict single-payer variant proposed by Sanders.

And then there is Sen. Kamala Harris (D–Calif.), who has settled for evasive squabbling about precisely what Medicare for All would do.

In an interview with CNN's Jake Tapper, Harris argued against the notion that the plan would wipe out private health insurance, insisting that it would allow for supplemental coverage.  

This is both technically true and mostly disingenuous. It is, at very best, a dodge. Although the Sanders plan would allow for very limited private coverage on top of the government plan, the space for such insurance would be vanishingly small, restricted mostly to cosmetic procedures.

The sort of comprehensive private coverage that nearly 180 million Americans have today would be completely eliminated. Private health insurance as we know it would be outlawed in the space of just four years. That is an essential and longstanding part of the Sanders plan. Instead of acknowledging this, Harris opted to argue about a technicality.

That private coverage would go away is not really a matter of dispute, or a result of some arcane reading of the legislation. Even Bernie Sanders himself has touted the elimination of private insurance as a feature of his plan.

Harris certainly knows this. As recently as a few months ago, she approvingly accepted the notion that Medicare for All would eliminate private coverage. She even made the argument that doing so would be a good thing.

In a separate interview with Tapper in January, she was asked about eliminating private coverage under Medicare for All. In response, she cast insurers as frustrating bureaucratic middlemen that she wanted to get rid of. "Let's eliminate all of that," she told Tapper at the time. "Let's move on." First, she wanted to get rid of private insurance and move on; now, she wants to argue over whether or not the bill eliminates every last tiny bit of private coverage. 

This is a revealing moment. The politics of Medicare for All have placed Democratic presidential hopefuls in a genuinely tricky spot. And the various ways in which Harris' rivals have attempted to navigate the issue suggest that, over time, the party is likely to settle for something less than full-fledged single-payer, even as a core group of diehards remain in support of the idea.

Harris' evasive response, in contrast, mostly tells us about Harris. And what it suggests is that she would rather avoid acknowledging or defending the policy trade-offs she apparently favors—and would prefer to distract and mislead people instead.

NEXT: Congress Just Restored the Export-Import Bank. It Still Deserves to Die.

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  1. I just want one, ONE, of the politicians who are so keen on Medicare for all to start using the current Medicare so they can show us how much better it is than their insurance. But that will only happen when they stop being lying power hungry assholes

    1. Congressmen are not even required to use Social Security.

      Those fuckers knew generations ago that Social Security was garbage and wanted taxpayers to fund their Congressional pension.
      Congressional benefits

      In 1789, members of the Senate and the House began making $6 a day for each day they were in session, which was typically between four to five months a year.

      Most senators and representatives make an annual salary of $174,000. Those in leadership make a bit more. For example, the speaker of the House makes $223,500 and majority and minority leaders in the House and Senate make $193,400. Congressmen earn this annual salary for the duration of their terms. Senators serve six-year terms, while members of the House serve for two years. There are no term limits.

      Members also get allowances to pay their staff and cover office and travel expenses. Senators’ average allowance is $3,306,570, while representatives’ is typically $900,000. Congressmen are also able to deduct $3,000 a year for the living expenses they accrue while they’re away from their home states or congressional districts.

      1. Accounting for inflation the original Congressional stipend was about 9,000 dollars per year. This is because they never intended for anyone to make a career out of government work, it was supposed to be something you did in addition to your regular job.

        Nowadays you’re lucky if you find a small-town mayor that still has a day job

    2. I actually suggested to my congresswoman that, as a show of good faith, she submit a bill to put all of Congress on Medicare. A surrogate told me it “wasn’t workable within the current budget” to do that, but couldn’t elaborate about why a program ostensibly supporting 44 million Americans couldn’t bear another 535 people without budgetary changes

      1. I know why:
        She was lying.

  2. I support Medicare for All of they truly nationalize the entire industry. Every doctor, nurse, every healthcare worker goes on a GS salary.

    Do it. I dare you. I double dog dare you.

    1. Still too expensive.
      They will institute a draft and force medical technicians to work for the base pay of a second lieutenant. Skilled and experienced surgeons and some other specialists, maybe as a captain.
      And there will be wage and price controls on all businesses that provide goods and services to medical facilities, to keep costs down.
      And then, just to be fair to everyone, all the rest of the USA will be forced to take jobs as assigned by the feds, and live and work where they are assigned.
      Then we will have the workers paradise.

      1. Every healthcare worker has to get on a waiting list for a Trabant and a larger apartment.

  3. Why do these people get off so much on interfering in other people’s lives?

    1. No matter how good they have it, politicians like to think they’ve overcome some great adversity that nobody else has ever had to deal with.

      Basically, they’re fucked in the head.

    2. It is what they do and who they are. That is why they are often called “elites” because it is their burden to make decisions for you, and to tell you they know what is best. You just need to listen to “The Rev” and follow the directions of your betters and not be a clinger.

  4. Medicare for All is an effective slogan promising free stuff and less hassles. The problem are that it cannot work like Medicare without a private sector to shift costs onto and that the sales pitch promises way more than the framework that has been outlined can deliver. Furthermore, Sanders wants equality of misery, so he wants to eliminate most most escape routes from the rationing in the universal system that is the only way to mitigate cost overruns.

  5. Medicare for all is nothing more than socialized medicine that will increase taxes and eventually bankrupt our country.
    I guess Harris thinks America’s bankruptcy is going fast enough for her.

  6. Tough question
    Harris: “We need to have a conversation about that.”
    Next question

    1. “Blue ribbon panel!”

  7. One survey shows that support for Medicare for All falls apart as soon people hear that it would not cover penis and breast enchantments.

  8. If anyone has a worthwhile plan that could avoid universal health care in the United States, there still might be a brief window to persuade America to refrain from implementing universal health care. Unless something surprising occurs, however, universal health care seems a medium-term inevitability.

    1. Universal health care, or as close as one can get to it, does not require a single payer system or elimination of private insurance. For a high-rated universal program, check out the Aussie program — a mixture of government, private, non-profit and for-profit. It’s complex, but according to WHO, it delivers better outcomes at considerably lower costs than our current system — something like 30% less expensive. One big advantage is that potential constitutional roadblocks are far fewer, and the system could be (and should be) integrated one piece at a time, allowing for tweaking as necessary. It should at, the very least, be part of the discussion.

      1. There’s plenty of alternatives. But anything beyond slogans requires thought (by either pols or voters) and thought is well beyond the capability or interest of Americans. So – we have competing slogans – and only two of them since third parties don’t seem to even be interested in engaging in anything. Scratch that – only one slogan now since the R’s have nothing at all now either and have scrapped their slogan.

        So the only issue now is – when will the timing be right for the one slogan to win. My guess – while the D’s hope that that is 2020, my guess is that that slogan will win the nanosecond the next recession starts. Which may or may not be 2020 but the driving force is the economy not an election. Right now, people can imagine their employer subsidy will continue forever and that’s fine by them cuz that requires even less thought than picking a slogan.

      2. I hate it when some lefty describes something that affects the lives of millions of people and cost billions of dollars as “tweaks”.

        1. LEFTY?? Really? LOL The Aussie system allows everyone to buy their own insurance. In fact, the basic design of the system is that as young folks get older, they are penalized if they DON’T get their own insurance. There isn’t a health care system in the world which doesn’t require a “tweak.” Until last year, when, due to my age, I basically forced to go on Medicare, I used to “tweak” my coverage every couple of years, as my health care needs changed, or were expected to change.

      3. Agree which is why I’m not worried about long-term care – because they’re won’t be any, you get old or sick you’ll be left to die.

      4. Let’s be very, very clear. Universal health care is a form of socialism, and as such it shares the fatal flaw of socialism. A lot of people are attracted to socialism because they think, erroneously, that economic theory is just about the allocation pf scarce resources, and socialism just sounds so attractive by saying everyone will get what they need; in health care, that means whoever is sick or injured will get taken care of, regardless of need. BUT economics is NOT just about the allocation of resources, it is also about the CREATION and DISTRIBUTION of those resources. Imagine, if you will, that there is some magic storehouse out there holding a fixed supply of what we call “health care.” The socialists think it would be oh so wonderful and “fair” to divide up that storehouse of “health care” among everyone who needs it, regardless of ability to pay. But what happens when the storehouse is empty? Who is going to keep it filled up? And who is going to work to make the product better, to develop new treatments, new cures, better prosthetics, etc.? And who is going to decide just how much of which products we need to keep everyone healthy, how many hospital beds, and where they ought to be located? How many vials of penicillin and other antibiotics? How many Xray machines, CAT Scanners and MRI machines? And, most importantly, how will prospective suppliers of health care be induced to supply enough health care, and with the right mix of products, and in the right locations? Health care goods and services don’t appear as if by magic, just sitting in that big magic storehouse waiting to be allocated by benevolent socialists among a needy population. Those goods and services must be created by people willing to do so – unless you happen to like slavery and think it’s a good idea to enslave all the doctors, nurses, lab technicians, pharmaceutical workers, etc., and compel them to create health care at whatever wages a bureaucrat thinks is fair (remember the lesson of the U.S.S.R. – “they pretend to pay us and we pretend to work). No, those creators of health care goods and services must be induced to create those goods and services by economic incentives. Doctors must believe that the sacrifice of 7 years of schooling and the rigors of internship will be made worthwhile by a higher income potential. The builders of hospitals, clinics, plants for the production of MRI machines and CAT scanners, labs for the discovery and testing of new drugs, etc., will yield a return in the form of profit. Without those economic incentives, the sources of health care will dry up and disappear, our magic storehouse of “health care” will be empty, and the equal distribution promised by socialism will turn into an equality of poverty.

        You simply cannot uncouple the allocation of goods from the creation of goods. Unless the consumers of health care are sending the right signals, through the mechanism of price, to the producers of health care, the amount of health care available will never be enough and the mix will always be wrong. Socialists simply don’t get this; they think that they can take a fixed amount of health care and distribute that care more “fairly, equitably and compassionately” without destroying the very system which insures that the goods and services making up health care are present in the first place. They can’t; you simply cannot rearrange the allocation of any economic good to do away with prices, and the invaluable function that prices play in communicating just what, how much, and where something is needed, without destroying the very system that creates the economic goods you need so desparately. That, in a nutshell, is the fatal flaw of socialism, and why universal healthcare, if it comes, will slowly destroy our healthcare industry.

        1. While I agree with much of what you say, Universal Health Care, defined as making sure that as many people as possible have access to health care, while composed of parts which certainly are “social programs” if not socialism, such as Medicaid in this country, the overall system need not mean total government control of the health system. Far from it. One-half of Aussies have their own insurance, and the system is reliant on a free-market to succeed. They DO have their equivalent of Medicaid, for low-income folks, but the individual option is there. The Aussie system is more efficient than the one we have now, and it is also considerably more effective in reaching its goals and objectives (according to WHO). Is it perfect? Oh hell no. And politicians, from left and right, are always kicking it around. But hey, that is the nature of the beast.

    2. None of the “Medicare for all” or other universal health care plans being put forward by Democratic presidential candidates qualifies as worthwhile.

      1. Good luck with your attempt to persuade most Americans.

        1. The laws of economics will persuade americans better than any politician.

          We’ll socialize our nation, the economy will fail, and we’ll follow Venezuela down the rabbit hole.

          When the people are eating rats, they learn fast, socialism sucks.

    3. ” universal health care seems a medium-term inevitability.”

      Because Democrat politicians are too retarded to stop themselves from totally screwing everyone? Wow i guess you must have an even worse estimate of their intelligence than you do of conservatives.

      1. Come up with a better plan, and persuade America, or prepare to whine about more American progress.

        1. How about a parallel plan which allows those who can afford to do so keep their existing insurance cover while expanding medicare for those who need the safety net.
          It’s not rocket science.
          Why are Dems advocating that any universal health care must result in everyone losing their private coverage. This just seems like the policy of spite. Just because everyone cannot afford private coverage, then in the interest of ‘fairness’ nobody should be allowed to have private coverage.

          1. “How about a parallel plan which allows those who can afford to do so keep their existing insurance cover while expanding medicare for those who need the safety net.”

            That is, to a large degree, the Aussie system, and it is designed to work that way, at least in the ideal.

        2. Come up with a better plan? What you’re saying, clinger, is essentially “if you don’t like Harris’s plan to destroy the economy, turn healthcare over to the tender ministrations of the VA, blow up the deficit, and drastically reduce American citizens’ freedom, come up with your own plan to destroy the economy, turn healthcare over to the tender ministrations of the VA, blow up the deficit, and drastically reduce American citizens’ freedom.”

          Sometimes, you ignorant hick, the only way to win is to not play the game.

        3. Here is a MUCH better plan. Return health care to the free market. And not just by repealing Obamacare, because health care pre-Obamacare was still a disaster, and not even close to the free market. No, we need to go back pre-1950 to find anything resembling a free market in most areas of the health care market. Eliminate the tax preference for employer-paid health insurance; if employees want their employer to pay for health insurance, fine, but treat it like any other form of current compensation, as taxable income. Then eliminate state regulations which increase health care costs, like certificate of need regulations for building hospitals and occupational licensing regulations which limit how health care practitioners can operate – if a Physician’s Assistant is competent to handle minor matters like common colds, minor cuts and abrasions, standard tests, etc., let them offer those services without requiring a licensed physician to be present or supervise. Reform the FDA so that it doesn’t take many years and billions of dollars to get drugs approved, and so it doesn’t have the power to prevent competition in generic or out-of-patent drugs (as it has for epinephrine injectors, at huge costs to consumers). Then eliminate Medicare; if there are elderly truly in need, cover them under a Medicaid type welfare program, but the assumption that everyone over 65 needs subsidized medical care is asinine. A great many current Medicare beneficiaries are well off enough to pay for their own medical care. If you look at the segments of medical care that are NOT federally subsidized and highly regulated, like cosmetic medicine, Lasik eye surgery, dentistry (especially dental implants), you’ll see that costs uniformly rise at less than the rate of inflation, even falling, as a result of free and open competition. It is precisely that free and open competition which has been absent from health care for over 70 years, and the results of a highly regulated and highly subsidized health care system are obvious and entirely predictable – out of control costs and mediocre results.

  9. Reason should do more analysis on NHS and provide analysis on the common excuses people give that medicare for all would be different.

    1. +100

  10. WHEN will someone with a national voice end her charade and publicly declare her ineligibility? BOth her parents were NOT US Citizens at the time of her birth, thus she is NOT a Natural Born Citizen and therefore cannot be president. Ever. Nor VP.

    WHY do the press continue to allow this fraud to campaign when she can never lawfully become president?

    1. I believe that if she was born here she is automatically a natural born citizen. Birthright citizenship. It is in the 14th A.

      All persons born or naturalized in the United States and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside.

      He bio says she was born in Oakland, California. Her parents were from Jamaica and India. After her parents were divorced she went with her mother to Canada before returning to the US. Her mother took a job there, she was a breast cancer researcher. From what I read that does not change your US citizenship status. Then Kamala came back here for college.

      Not that she will get the nomination.

      She seems to be struggling on a lot of issues including this one on health care. Vague promises amounting to nothing with no original ideas.

      1. Dems have nothing to offer other than Free stuff for everyone.
        Anyone with a few brain cells knows that there is no free lunch. If someone gets something free, then it is always paid for by someone else.
        Trump got elected by Americans who did not want a free pass. They wanted the chance to work and achieve on their own merits. They wanted the jobs brought back and Trump certainly kept his promise on that one. Trump[‘s best days as president are still ahead of him now that the bogus Russian investigation is behind him. He is now totally unencumbered and I see America thriving in the next 6 years.
        I can’t see Harris or any of the other pathetic Dems beating him no matter who finally wins the nomination.

        1. Anyone with a few brain cells knows that there is no free lunch.

          Well, $20 trillion says that either Americans think there is such a thing as a free lunch – or Americans have no brain cells

          1. “Well, $20 trillion says that either Americans think there is such a thing as a free lunch – or Americans have no brain cells.”

            Can’t it be both?

  11. This nonsense will only stop when the the US taxpayer make it ar more difficult to spend OPM, Other People’s Money.

    Failure to perform basic math is a fundamental disqualifier.

    1. the US taxpayer PREFERS to spend OPM. That’s why we have a $20 trillion debt.

  12. I’ve never understood why they don’t suggest a health care system which runs along side a private system. Why does it have to be one or the other. Allowing people to have a private system if they choose to continue to pay for health insurance takes these people out of the state run system and reduces the pressure.
    Why must everyone be brought down to the lowest possible care just so they can make everyone ‘equal’. Those who can afford private coverage should be allowed to continue.
    Dems have zero concept that some people have more money than others. The cannot make everyone rich so they decide to make everyone poor in the name of equality.
    Harris is about as bad as the Dems get. She is Hillary mk 2.

    1. the problem would be the lack of money. It would be everyone paying a portion as they would in “medicare for all” even if they aren’t using the plan or if someone opts into federal healthcare their taxes would have to go up to support them as well as everyone else meaning it could be more expensive than a private plan and as we all know, the government isn’t the best with healthcare. So 1. everyone pays no matter what which defeats the purpose or 2. the person who joins would pay far more taxes.

      1. In the Aussie system, those with private insurance get a tax credit for providing their own insurance, since they are not draining the public coffers.

  13. Matriarchy In America

    Throughout history, name one advanced, successful, matriarchal society. Can’t? Yet, these United States of America are evolving towards matriarchy; some would say devolving.

    Indeed, history is replete with women of competence successfully wielding power. Queen Elizabeth I. Catherine the Great. Margaret Thatcher. They did so, however, in a context controlled by men.

    The Democratic candidates for the presidency boast many strong women and all weak men — men grovelling at the feet of women. Can a contemporary, matriarchal society compete against a patriarchal one?

    For a discussion from a scientific perspective, visit “Matriarchy in America” at … .

  14. It’s crazy we even have people selling insurance in a country where no one can be denied medical care. Think of car insurance. If you wreck your car and you don’t have insurance you’re fucked. If you wreck your body and don’t have insurance you just show up at the hospital and they repair your car. We’re all underwriting this shit now. The insurance companies are not. The insurance companies are only dealing in the case that make profits leaving us to pick up the trash. We would better off using the profits the insurance companies are pocketing to pay for the medical costs. It’s just so fucking stupid to insist on protecting this insurance racketm

    1. How is it the insurance company’s fault that we force hospitals to give care to people who can’t or won’t pay for it?

  15. […] theory, Medicare for All is more popular than ever,” writes Reason Features Editor Peter Suderman, in a post about Sen. Kamala Harris (D–Calif.) eluding […]

  16. Total nominal spending on health care in the USA is around $3.2 trillion a year, and that will likely continue to increase. The $32 trillion number projected over a decade for Bernie’s plan isn’t scary by itself – because we’re going to spend at least that much anyway. What is scary, is that Bernie has not figured out how the actual financing will work. Since employer provided coverage is such a huge piece of the current puzzle, Bernie should be honest and suggest that under his plan, employers will give workers raises – since those insurance costs will go away for employers, and then the required increased payroll taxes won’t be as damaging to the workers’ take home pay. Imagine getting a $10,000 raise – then see it all taxed away for single-payer! That’s what Bernie doesn’t want to talk about.

    1. They don’t need to ‘be honest’. They just need to:

      a)stop adding to the incentives/distortions of the employer-based system and
      b)wait for the economy to prove the problems of an employer-based system.

      Nothing will happen before b happens – and once b does happen, people’s opinions will change overnight.

      Tactically, the biggest impact of the D’s moving to a ‘Medicare for All’ slogan is that it indicates they will no longer support a-type options. Historically, those a-type options have been exactly when both parties agree on big bi-partisan moves to increase the subsidies to and to prop up the employer-based system. If that is no longer gonna happen, then it means the employer-based system is much less likely to survive the next recession.

      1. How about taking away the incentives/distortions of the employer-based system by making the employer-provided health insurance part of taxable income to the employee? Just kidding – that won’t happen (even though I think it makes some sense).

  17. […] theory, Medicare for All is more popular than ever,” writes Reason Features Editor Peter Suderman, in a post about Sen. Kamala Harris (D–Calif.) eluding […]

  18. The problem with questioning Sen. Harris is when you assume Sen. Harris is a reasonable human being. Or when you assume she’s intelligent. Don’t assume.

  19. […] theory, Medicare for All is more popular than ever,” writes Reason Features Editor Peter Suderman, in a post about Sen. Kamala Harris (D–Calif.) eluding […]

  20. Yes, let’s lambast people trying to fix the problem.

    Ever wonder why Reason slams the Democrats so hard on this yet how many articles do we read anymore about the Republicans complete lack of effect on healthcare if not to worsen it? Big sounds for 7 years then NOTHING.

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