If this sounds familiar, it should. We've been down this exact path -- this exact path -- with Kamala Harris before. During last night's debate, Harris was among the Senators who raised her hand in favor of eliminating private insurance. It's a radical and unpopular position, but it's hers. She's co-sponsored a bill that would outright ban 180 million Americans' private coverage. But the morning after the debate, she appears to be having regrets about her candid answer, claiming that she didn't really understand the question. Watch the original moment, then the clean up:
Significant update from Kamala Harris on CBS this AM: "Under Medicare for all policy, private insurance [would] certainly exist and, um, for supplemental coverage."— David Wright (@DavidWright_CNN) June 28, 2019
Says she misinterpreted question about eliminating private insurance to mean for herself. pic.twitter.com/ZMon4RyOuY
I'd perhaps be willing to entertain her new explanation if she...hadn't performed precisely the same dance before. We wrote about it in detail at the time, which wasn't very long ago. Can we still chalk up this equivocation and "clarification" to confusion and ignorance about her own bill -- or is this deliberate obfuscation? May I remind you that the "supplemental" coverage she's talking up is, under her legislation, legally barred from covering anything that the government system covers? Her reassurances about supplemental private coverage seem intended to mask the fact that such coverage would only be available to cover a narrow band of procedures, such as elective cosmetic surgery. For all intents and purposes, private healthcare would be illegal. As for other candidates' more "moderate" variants of 'Medicare for All,' Kirsten Gillibrand helpfully gave away the game in one of her own answers last night. The purpose of transition phases or so-called public options is to move the entire country onto mandatory, no-choice single-payer healthcare as quickly as is politically feasible. This is what you'd call 'saying the quiet part out loud:'
So this is a very important issue. So the plan that Senator Sanders and I and others support, Medicare for all, is how you get to single payer. But it has a buy-in transition period, which is really important...The way I formulated it was simple. Anyone who doesn't have access to insurance they like, they could buy it at a percentage of income they could afford. So that's what we put in to the transition period for our Medicare for all plan. I believe we need to get to universal health care as a right and not a privilege to single payer. The quickest way you get there is you create competition with the insurers. God bless the insurers, if they want to compete, they can certainly try, but they've never put people over their profits, and I doubt they ever will. So what will happen is people will choose Medicare, you will transition, we will get to Medicare for all, and then your step to single-payer is so short.
Pete Buttigieg confirmed this fundamental reality in the very next answer:
You take something like Medicare, a flavor of that, you make it available on the exchanges, people can buy in. And then if people like us are right, that that will be not only a more inclusive plan, but a more efficient plan than any of the corporate answers out there, then it will be a very natural glide path to the single-payer environment.
Put the 'Medicare for All' option on the table, heavily subsidized by tax dollars, and the government will deliberately put private insurance out of business, forcing people into a fully government-run single-payer system thanks to the compulsory "glide path" Mayor Pete hails. Gillibrand and Buttigieg, who didn't raise their hands on the private coverage elimination question, both explicitly support an endgame under which private insurance is eliminated. They said just so. These are crucially important answers to pay attention to, and to respond to aggressively -- while reminding the American people of the facts about the actual 'Medicare for All' bills on the table in both the House and Senate:
Sec. 107 of Sanders bill that Harris supports makes it crystal clear that it would ban all current private insurance. No employer is offering merely a supplemental plan for cosmetic surgery. https://t.co/ok5CeEO59Y pic.twitter.com/4CuIAglAd5— Philip Klein (@philipaklein) June 28, 2019
Overall, I agree with the general consensus that Harris and Buttigieg were the stars of the show last night, with Bernie looking and sounding like a relic. Joe Biden did not seem sharp, smooth, quick-witted or composed much of the time. Primary voters may forgive him, or not care about his shaky performance, but he struck me as a vulnerable frontrunner. All the other players on the stage seemed irrelevant. There will be many more exchanges, debates, and forums in the future. The biggest policy takeaway from last night (aside from the single-payer issue) was the entire field's endorsement of taxpayer-funded healthcare for illegal immigrants, and the party's breathtaking stampede away from making any pretense about enforcing the border. I'll leave you with more clumsy sleight of hand from Harris, repeating another debunked argument she's advanced in the recent past:
I suspect this is a case of a certain class of millennials thinking their experience to be much more universal than it actually is. And also, the difficulty of arguing with sub-4% unemployment.— Megan McArdle (@asymmetricinfo) June 28, 2019