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July 1, 2019

Last week, Kamala Harris said she supported abolishing private health plans. Or did she?

Daily Briefing

    Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), who is seeking the 2020 Democratic nomination for president, on Friday walked back her position on nixing private coverage after raising her hand in support of replacing such coverage with a government-run "Medicare-for-All" plan during Thursday's primary debate.

    Where do the 2020 Democratic hopefuls stand on health care?

    Harris' past positions on Medicare for All

    According to "The Upshot," Harris' position on private coverage has seemed to conflict at times.

    For instance, Harris during a January town hall on CNN said, "Let's eliminate all of that. Let's move on," but her campaign the next day walk backed her statement, and since has claimed Harris supports a more incremental shift toward a single-payer health care system.

    However, Harris is listed as one of 14 co-sponsors of Sen. Bernie Sanders' (I-Vt.) Medicare-for-All legislation, which would shift all U.S. residents into a government-run health plan, but permit private insurers to sell supplemental coverage. Sanders' proposed government-run health plan would cover all medically necessary services, including dental, long-term, and vision care. Private supplemental coverage likely would only cover cosmetic care, Sanders explained during an April appearance on MSNBC, The Hill reports.

    During Thursday's primary debate for candidates seeking the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination, Harris again showed support for eliminating private coverage. During the debate, candidates were asked to raise their hands if they support abolishing private health insurance to implement a government-run Medicare-for-All plan. Harris and Sanders raised their hands.

    Harris clarifies stance on health insurance reform

    However, Harris during a series of media appearances Friday appeared to walk back her position on eliminating private insurance, while also reaffirming her support for Medicare for All.  

    MSNBC's "Morning Joe" co-host Willie Geist asked Harris, "Once and for all, do you believe that private insurance should be eliminated in this country?"

    Harris responded, "No, no. I do not." Harris added that she had thought the moderator during the debate asked the candidates, "'Would you give up your private insurance for that option?' And [she] said yes."

    Geist later pressed Harris on the issue again, at which point she clarified that she favored a health insurance system in which private insurance functioned primarily as supplemental coverage. Geist asked, "So, to boil it down, Medicare for All, available to everyone if they want it, but if they have private insurance, they keep it?"

    Harris responded, "For supplemental coverage," adding, "Otherwise, they're in Medicare for All."

    Harris during a later appearance Friday on CBS' "CBS This Morning" further explained, "I am supportive of Medicare for All, and under Medicare-for-All policy, private insurance would certainly exist for supplemental coverage" (Sanger-Katz, "The Upshot," New York Times, 6/28; Chiacu, Reuters, 6/28; Forgey, Politico, 6/28; Owens, "Vitals," Axios, 7/1; Hellmann, The Hill, 6/28).

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