Sen. Kamala Harris backs “Medicare for all” — i.e. the single payer health insurance system that Sen. Bernie Sanders advocates. The “single payer” is the government — i.e., taxpayers.
During a CNN town hall, Jake Tapper asked Harris whether her proposal means eliminating private health insurance. Harris reportedly answered in the affirmative, saying she would be okay with cutting insurers out of the mix. As if to justify this, she accused private insurers of thinking only of their bottom lines and of burdening Americans with paperwork and approval processes.
It’s worth noting that Medicare itself doesn’t cut private insurers out completely. Private insurers provide prescription drug insurance under Medicare Part D. One can also purchase Medicare Advantage plans from private insurers.
This creates some inequality. Low income seniors are less able to pay for Medicare Advantage than their wealthier counterparts. I assume the Democratic left disapproves of this inequitable arrangement, at least in theory.
In any event, as Ramesh Ponnuru observes, if Harris is the Democratic nominee against President Trump in 2020, he will be able to say, truthfully, that she wants to take away most Americans’ insurance and put them on a government plan.
How will voters view her position? The Obamacare experience suggests they won’t like it. Ponnuru has noted that Democrats designed Obamacare the way they did in large part to avoid causing people to lose their health care insurance plans, and suffered politically to the extent they did not succeed. More recently, Republicans suffered when they were perceived as disrupters of the health care status quo.
Voters who have health insurance consistently tell pollsters they are satisfied with it. Thus, it’s logical that they take a dim view of calls to force them off of their plans.
On the other hand, Medicare is known to be good insurance. That’s why Democrats have adopted the “Medicare for all” mantra. It may be an easier sell to the public than Obamacare was.
In reality, the single payer coverage Democrats would provide all Americans could never match the Medicare coverage provided to seniors only. But that wouldn’t become apparent to voters until it was too late.
Ponnuru concludes that “Harris’s blithe endorsement of the end of the kind of insurance most Americans use — and which they usually tell pollsters they are satisfied with — is our best evidence yet that the competitive pressure of the Democratic primaries is pulling the party so far to the left as to reduce its chances in the general election.” Competitive pressure is pulling the party to the left in ways that will harm its general election prospects. I think we’ll see clearer cases of this than health insurance policy.