Kamala Harris

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

The presidential hopeful has flip-flopped on the issue several times.


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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  1. My guess is that Kamala’s support for private health insurance is going to depend on the size of the checks from the insurance company lobbyists. Harris just strikes me as a younger, darker, less transparently self-aggrandizing version of Hillary.

    1. Or, maybe Obama?

      1. She’s way worse than Obama.

  2. My biggest disappointment with Reason over the past few months has been the relentlessly negative coverage of Kamala Harris. I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt and assume you’re only doing this because there are other Democrats you think will be more favorable to the Koch Brothers’ agenda than her.

    However, if Harris gets the nomination, I expect the entire Reason staff to unite behind her. Don’t disappoint me.


    1. The problem with Harris, Sanders, or Warren is that they all support multiple giant government wealth redistribution programs and/or programs that will reshape our country and economy such MFA w/elimination of private health insurance, free college for all, elimination of existing student debt to varying degrees (a moral hazard if there is one), reparations (another moral hazard), Green New Deal, wealth taxes (Constitutional issue), and packing the Supreme Court.

      Some of these, esp. the handouts, are virtually impossible to undo and many will linger for many decades after they leave office even though it’s clear they are not working or were a mistake from the beginning. Court packing, for example, is a mistake from the beginning but, once it’s done, every time Congress and the Executive are from the same party and SCOTUS is aligned against them, more Justices will be added and the court will keep growing and growing until most of the seats where the audience sits today are filled with black robed justices.

      Now, of course, they may find that Congress won’t go along with them on many of these things (even if Democrats hold the House and win the Senate and eliminate the filibuster) because they want to be reelected in the next election. However, that is a slim thread to hang onto for hope.

      Trump, on the other hand, so far really hasn’t been able to make any big changes that will linger more than a year or two past his term and, even if re-elected that’s likely to remain the case — esp. if the Democrats hold the House.

      So, we have two choices – both are bad. However, one is more like a flu, the other is more like a cancer with a five year survival rate of 10%. Sorry, I’ll take the former rather than the latter.

  3. “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.”

    We need to go straight to the “I am sure the government is not going to cover this” stage.

    She acts like she is not aware that Medicare only covers 80% of the expense, and has NO annual out of pocket spending limit.

    1. She actually may not be aware of much of anything beyond her ambition.

    2. OTOH, Medicare recipients, like my mother, can buy supplementary policies that cover all of the Medicare coinsurance so that all that she has to pay is the Part B deductible which is less than $200 or they take their chances and pay the deductibles and coinsurance out-of-pocket. Those without my mother’s assets and income rely on Medicaid to make up the difference.

      Other medicare beneficiaries, like me, take advantage of Medicare Part C or Medicare Advantage which turns all of the responsibility over to a private company (in my case FloridaBlue) in exchange for fixed copays and (possibly most importantly) a fixed annual out of pocket spending limit. In addition, my plan includes Medicare Part D (drug coverage) plus vision and dental coverage (though the last two are nowhere near as generous as they sound*).

      *Basically, the dental include two cleanings and one set of Xrays a year and the vision covers an exam and one set of standard bifocals a year

    3. Sander’s Medicare for All (MFA) bill eliminates all premiums, copays, and deductibles and also covers dental, vision, hearing, and unlimited long term care.

      So, of course, it’s not “Medicare” except in name. However, I think that addresses your concern.

      Harris has stated that she supports “Medicare for All” (although she flops back and forth like a just caught salmon about if she supports the “No Private Insurance” restraint).

      1. Oops – forgot to add the link to the NYT questionnaire responses regarding Harris’ position on MFA: https://www.nytimes.com/2019/06/23/us/politics/2020-democrats-health-care.html?module=inline

  4. I am not sure where the Government/single payer “insurance” model became associated with “banning private insurance” in this country comes from.

    The only western country that I know of that prohibits private insurance in the basic healthcare market is Canada. But even there there is an active private insurance market for those things not covered by Canadian Medicare. These include dental coverage (the provinces have various programs here; eg Ontario’s school dentist system which provides dental care, including orthodontia, to children in the provinces public schools but which is completely separate from the Federal mandate – Canadian Medicare includes no dental coverage except for catastrophic injury so for the most part dental insurance is provided privately). Other thing that are provided by private insurance in Canada are drug coverage and odd stuff like Chiroquackpractic care etc.

    The plain fact is that pretty much all of the other social democracies allow some kind of dual-level medical delivery where those who can’t pay get basic care while those who can pay for private insurance and those who can pay out of pocket get the best medical care that money can buy. Keep in mind that even where private insurance and private payment is not allowed the best medical care that money can buy is available for the cost of a plane ticket to where it is available.

    1. …the best medical care that money can buy is available for the cost of a plane ticket to where it is available.

      And, of course, the fee that whoever is providing that care demands.

      1. Which is quite reasonable if you go to India or Mexico or some place like that, where you can apparently get excellent medical services for relaitively bargain prices..

        1. Yes, and IIANM many insurance companies are arranging to do exactly that.

          And, of course, many people are arranging to do the same thing out-of-pocket in addition to bringing a necessary contingent of “loved ones” (the number of whom is restrained only by the size of the wallet).

    2. It stems from two things: Some Dem politicians actually saying that it should be banned. And from the fact that the projected cost of Medicare For All would require ALL current insurance spending be shifted to the the government.

    3. I don’t know if you mean
      “Why do people think that some candidates want to ban private insurance?”
      “Why do some candidates think it makes sense to ban private insurance?”

      To the former question… Because they have said so and Sanders’ MFA bill (the only current one I know of so I think it’s fair to say that is what “Medicare for All” means for purposes of discussion) does ban it (see 107(a)).

      To the latter question… Among progressives insurance companies (like any for profit medical business — most of which Sanders also wants to ban) are evil because they are capitalist. Also, allowing such private insurance would allow some middle class professionals to not wait in the same long queues as everyone else or spend 20 minutes with a doctor instead of ten minutes with a PA or NP. With or without insurance, of course, rich folks would just pay for their own visits and treatments if they wanted better service or, perhaps, the most skilled surgeons. Also, the idea of banning private insurance appeals to many ignorant progressives who have no idea how health care works in other countries and think it’s “free, free, free”, care is never denied or delayed, and is always of the highest possible quality so why would anyone want insurance? it’s an “equality” thing — no one should get better or more convenient care than anyone else regardless of their resources. These folks generally would prefer that everyone gets crappy care than everyone gets better care but some people get even better and more convenient care because they have worked hard and excelled and can afford better care.

  5. Yeah, Kamala Harris is terrible for a lot of reasons. This is unsurprisingly not her worst sin.

    She’s a dangerous demagogue and just all around nasty person who should stay far far away from any seat of power.

  6. Kamala Rouge!

  7. Anyone telling roughly 55%-60% of Americans who are currently covered under private plans, “We don’t like your plan so we are taking it away and involuntarily putting you in a government plan”, is going to lose the 2020 election. It is that simple.

    Just think about this rationally…people do not like uncertainty, and that multiplies exponentially when you’re messing with their healthcare. The election of 2010 demonstrated this quite clearly.

  8. Kamala, the Half-Chocolate HiLIARy.

  9. Was Kamala bused to a school to achieve racial integration?

    She is, and was, a child of economic privilege her whole life.

    By the way, the Democratic party is insane. Trump will be reelected.

  10. I don’t know if people like her have ever needed to pay for something not covered by their insurance, but that’s what HSA/FSAs are for.

    Once again, govt telling people what to do = bad, govt not taxing people and letting them decide what to do with their money = good.

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