Senator Kamala Harris (D-CA) ended the first round of Democratic debates with a misstep: raising her hand when asked if her Medicare reform plan would eliminate the private insurance industry. She corrected herself immediately following the debate, and has since spent time creating a plan which would allow private and public health insurance to coexist simultaneously.
Harris remains a co-sponsor of Senator Bernie Sanders’s (I-VT) original Medicare for All bill, but her plan has several distinct differences, including her timeline, how the private insurance industry would function, and who gets taxed in order to pay for it.
When it comes to coverage, the plan Kamala Harris is proposing is similar to Sanders’s bill.
Harris’s plan would cover:
- Emergency room visits
- Doctor visits
- Vision care
- Hearing aids
- Dental care
- Mental health services
- Substance abuse disorder treatment
- Comprehensive healthcare services
- Newborns, the uninsured, and those under Marketplace plans
Sanders’s plan would cover all Americans with Medicare within four years. Harris’s plan would take more than twice that time, unfolding over 10 years.
Some pros of this timeline include allowing public and private insurance to coexist and giving the country more time to adjust to reshaping the current healthcare system. Lengthening the timeline could also reduce the overall costs.
However, Harris’s plan is not without cons. For example, the country would still be transitioning into the new system when the next president takes office in 2024 or 2028—a risky move. Furthermore, the plan she’s released is only a general outline, and it would take additional time to create a detailed bill that could be presented on the House and Senate floors.
While Sanders’s plan fully eliminates private insurance plans that duplicate Medicare coverage, Harris’s plan gives private insurers a role to play alongside Medicare. Individuals would have the option to purchase a government-administered Medicare plan or buy one from a private insurer. These private plans would function similarly to the way Medicare Advantage plans currently do.
Additionally, Harris’s plan would leave room for employer-sponsored plans. After the 10-year transition period, employers could still offer private insurance plans as long as those plan meet certain standards for cost and coverage.
Sanders’s plan proposed a 4 percent “premium” tax on four-person households with an income over $29,000.
Harris’s plan would exempt families with incomes up to $100,000. If these families live in high-cost areas, like San Francisco where the American dollar doesn’t stretch very far, this threshold would be raised accordingly.
Harris would also tax stocks, bonds, and offshore corporate income, which is expected to offset the program cost by about $2 trillion in 10 years.
Sanders’s plan is estimated to cost about $32 trillion over 10 years.
Harris has yet to release how much her plan would cost, both nationally and individually. However, affordability is one of her top priorities.
“I look at this issue through a fairly simple prism: each night, millions of American wake up at 3 o’clock in the morning worried about some aspect of their health care,” she said in a statement. “How am I going to afford a $5,000 deductible just for walking my child into the emergency room because their fever won’t go down?”
Do you like the plan Kamala Harris is proposing? Follow us on Facebook and let us know. You can also catch her in the second round of Democratic debates, July 31 at 8/7c, to hear more about it.