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Kamala Harris backtracks on eliminating private health insurance

Mary Ellen McIntire, CQ-Roll Call on

Published in Health & Fitness

WASHINGTON -- California Sen. Kamala Harris walked back her support for eliminating private health insurance Friday, a day after she raised her hand during a Democratic presidential primary debate to indicate she supported getting rid of it.

Harris said Friday on MSNBC that she raised her hand with the intention of saying she personally would get rid of her private insurance plan in favor of a "Medicare for All" plan, but does not support eliminating private insurance. People could keep private insurance coverage for supplemental coverage, she said.

"I am a proponent of Medicare for All," Harris said in the television interview. "Private insurance will exist for supplemental coverage."

Harris is a co-sponsor of a bill introduced by Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, the other candidate in Thursday's debate who raised his hand to indicate support for eliminating private insurance. The bill would essentially eliminate private insurance coverage, but people could purchase supplemental coverage for services not covered by the government plan, namely cosmetic surgery.

This is the second time this year that Harris has indicated that she supports ending private insurance but later clarified her remarks. In May, she told CNN that she meant that she supported getting rid of the "bureaucracy" in health care, rather than eliminating all insurance companies.

Ian Sams, a spokesman for Harris' campaign, told CQ Roll Call that Harris had always supported the plan laid out in the Senate bill. Sams said on Twitter that Sanders has also maintained that his bill would not eliminate private insurance and that Harris has "been consistent throughout."

During Wednesday night's debate, Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio both said they would support eliminating private insurance in favor of a government-run plan.

 

Over the two nights of debates, the candidates demonstrated fault lines within the party on the issue of health insurance coverage. The candidates appeared united in favor of universal insurance coverage. But some favor a government-run public option, such as one that would be offered on the exchanges set up under the 2010 health care law, while others are calling for a single-payer system that would end most private insurance.

While Medicare for All polls well in general, voters have different definitions of the idea and polls show the public is wary of eliminating private insurance. A poll released this month by the left-leaning Navigator Research firm found that 47% of registered voters would support a Medicare for All program that would provide Medicare to all Americans and eventually eliminate all private insurance, while 73% said they would support a Medicare for All program that allowed people to buy into Medicare but would allow people to maintain their private insurance.

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