Democrat Harris puts her hand down on banning private health insurance

Reuters , Friday 28 Jun 2019

Senator Kamala Harris
Senator Kamala Harris is interviewed by MSNBC host Chris Matthews in the "spin room" after the conclusion of the second night of the first U.S. 2020 presidential election Democratic candidates debate in Miami, Florida, U.S., June 27, 2019. (Reuters)

Democratic presidential candidate Kamala Harris on Friday again had to clarify her position on private health insurance after a standout debate performance that her campaign said drew a surge of financial contributions.

Harris and her U.S. Senate colleague Bernie Sanders were the only two candidates to raise their hands during Thursday night's second Democratic debate when asked, "Who here would abolish their private health insurance in favor of a government-run plan?"

However, Harris told reporters afterwards she interpreted the question as referring to a personal choice and said she did not support eliminating private insurance completely.

"The question was would you give up YOUR private insurance for that option and I said yes," the senator from California said in an interview with MSNBC on Friday.

"I am proponent of Medicare for All. Private insurance will exist for supplemental coverage," she added.

Harris dominated her nine Democratic rivals on Thursday night's debate stage, confronting front-runner Joe Biden on race and calling his remarks about working with segregationist senators hurtful.

Campaign spokeswoman Lily Adams said the debate marked the third-largest fundraising day of Harris' campaign. "So we're feeling very good, especially about the response that we're seeing from the early states," she told CNN.

Democrats see healthcare as central to their efforts to win back the White House and build on gains in congressional races in 2020 after Republican President Donald Trump chipped away at his Democratic predecessor Barack Obama's signature Affordable Care Act.

It was not the first time Harris has had to clarify her position on private health insurance. At a town hall in January, she said she would be willing to eliminate private health insurance.

Harris later told CNN she was referring to the wasteful bureaucracy of Medicare, not the insurance industry and her campaign said she would be open to more moderate approaches.

Like the 10 candidates in the first Democratic debate on Wednesday night, the contenders on Thursday disagreed over the best way to boost access to healthcare insurance coverage. On Wednesday night, U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio were the only two candidates to raise their hand when asked if they would scrap private insurance.

Harris has backed Sanders' Medicare-For-All bill that would largely eliminate private insurance and shift all Americans into a government-run healthcare plan that Republicans have criticized as too costly.

The bill has 14 Democratic co-sponsors in the Senate, including four of his presidential rivals - Harris, Warren, Kirsten Gillibrand and Cory Booker. The other White House contender in the Senate, Amy Klobuchar, supports universal healthcare and expanding Medicare but has not committed to plans that would eliminate private insurance.

Trump and his supporters have labeled the Democrats who support Medicare for All as radical socialists who would take away Americans' health care choices.

Traveling in Asia for a G20 summit, Trump knocked the Democratic presidential hopefuls on Thursday for pledging to cover healthcare for immigrants who live in the United States after coming to the country illegally.

"All Democrats just raised their hands for giving millions of illegal aliens unlimited healthcare. How about taking care of American Citizens first!? That’s the end of that race!" he said on Twitter.

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