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Kamala Harris Presidential Candidacy Boosts 'Medicare for All' Effort

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(Related: Take Single-Payer Health Care Proposals Seriously: Sally Pipes)

Sen. Kamala Harris energized the “Medicare for all” movement earlier this week by announcing her plans to run for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination.

The 54-year-old California Democrat has drawn attacks from some other Democrats, based in allegations that she was unfair to people accused of committing crimes when she served as the district attorney for the city and the county of San Francisco, and then as the attorney general for California.

But Harris has sided with the more liberal wing of  the Democratic party since Aug. 30, 2017, when she endorsed the “Medicare for all” bill introduced by Sen. Bernie Sanders, a Vermont independent. Sanders’ Medicare for all bill would prohibit the sale of traditional commercial health insurance and eliminate the market for traditional supplemental health insurance products.

(Related: Warren Kicks Off Presidential Campaign, Offers Estate Tax Proposal)

Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., another top candidate for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination, has also endorsed the Medicare for all concept.

Kaiser Medicare-for-All Polling Data

The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation has released new survey data — based on a sample of 1,190 U.S. adults ages 18 and older, who were interviewed by telephone from Jan. 9 through Jan. 14 — showing that U.S. adult support for “Medicare for all” looks strong, but partly because many voters think that “Medicare for all” means universal health coverage, not the kind of completely government-run, single-payer health system proposed by Sanders.

Kaiser analysts found that 56% of the survey participants said they favor having a “national health plan, sometimes called Medicare-for-all,” and that 71% said they would favor a Medicare-for-all plan that would “guarantee health insurance as a right for all Americans.”

About 67% said they would favor a plan that would “eliminate all health insurance premiums and reduce out-of-pocket health care costs for most Americans.”

But only 37% said they would support a Medicare-for-all proposal that would “eliminate private health insurance companies” or require Americans to pay more in taxes.

About 58% oppose eliminating private health insurance companies, and 60% oppose paying higher taxes to pay for a Medicare-for-all program.

Only 32% said they would support a Medicare-for-all program that would “threaten the current Medicare program.”

In response to another question, about 51% of Democrats included in the Kaiser survey sample said they would prefer to see House Democrats focus on improving and protecting the Affordable Care Act, rather than on passing a Medicare-for-all bill. Just 38% said they would prefer to House Democrats focus on passing a Medicare-for-all bill.

The Future

The ‘Medicare for all’ movement is about paying for health care.

But it’s possible that arguments about the government role in health finance could end up reshaping national debates over other social support programs, such as retirement savings programs.


A copy of the Kaiser survey results is available here.

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