While Bernie Sanders seeks to eliminate the private insurance industry and provide healthcare for all citizens, Harris’s plan would allow private insurers to offer Medicare plans.
U.S. Senator Kamala Harris has been criticized for hijacking the Medicare for All policy and giving an alternative that would not change the current for-profit private healthcare system.
Harris released a Medicare-for-all proposal Monday ahead of the second Democratic presidential debate being held in Detroit this week.
Her new plan differs from Bernie Sanders’s legislation that she co-sponsored in Senate in April.
While Sanders’ bill seeks to eliminate the private insurance industry and provide healthcare for all citizens at a lower cost, Harris’s plan would allow private health insurers to offer Medicare plans if they meet requirements on costs and benefits.
“Essentially, we would allow private insurance to offer a plan in the Medicare system, but they will be subject to strict requirements to ensure it lowers costs and expands services. If they want to play by our rules, they can be in the system. If not, they have to get out,” Harris wrote.
Bernie Sanders campaign criticized the plan. His campaign manager Faiz Shakir said, “It's bad policy and bad politics.”
"This is why you want a candidate with a lifetime of consistency and a track record on the big issues facing us," he said.
At the first Democratic presidential debate in June, Harris raised her hand when the candidates were asked whether they would abolish private health insurance in favor of a government-run plan. She later said she had misunderstood the question.
Harris’s proposal also differs on the transition period proposed by Sanders’ bill. Instead of a four-year transition, she planned for a 10-year transition period which according to her would “decrease the overall cost of the program compared to the Sanders proposal.”
Matt Bruenig, founder of the think tank People's Policy Project disputed the claim saying “the longer you take, the longer NHE (National Health Expenditure) remains unnecessarily elevated.”
RoseAnn DeMoro, the former executive director of National Nurses United, slammed Harris’s proposal for being a “market-based scheme” to “further enrich insurers.”
Michael Lighty, a founding fellow at the Sanders Institute think tank and an activist for Medicare for All campaign, said Harris’s plan would not touch some of the harmful parts of private insurance industries.
"These plans restrict access to certain providers, charge seniors more for out of network care, and receive an extra subsidy from the government. Hugely profitable and fast-growing, they keep insurers in charge," Lighty said.
"Since under Senator Harris's plan an HMO (Health Maintenance Organization), or other private commercial insurers, will continue to determine coverage and doctors for millions of people—and profit from denials of care—that's not healthcare as a human right."
Kathleen Sebelius, the former chief of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services during the Obama administration, said Harris’ plan would be a “sensible expansion” of the Medicare system.
“To get all Americans covered by health insurance, where cost is not a barrier, we need innovative ideas like this,” Sebelius said in a statement.