Democratic presidential candidates who have embraced a proposal by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) to establish “Medicare for All” are suddenly struggling to explain whether they would eliminate private health insurance.
Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) told a CNN town hall earlier this week that she would “eliminate” private insurance, then tried to walk the remark back. Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ), who announced his candidacy on Friday, told reporters that while he supported “Medicare for All,” he would not eliminate private health insurance.
However, both Harris and Booker were co-sponsors of Sanders’s bill, S. 1804, which would in fact ban private health insurance and employer-sponsored health insurance for any benefits also covered by “Medicare for all.”
Private health insurance would only be allowed for extra benefits not covered by the plan, the bill’s text reveals:
SEC. 107. PROHIBITION AGAINST DUPLICATING COVERAGE.
(a) In General.—Beginning on the effective date described in section 106(a), it shall be unlawful for—
(1) a private health insurer to sell health insurance coverage that duplicates the benefits provided under this Act; or
(2) an employer to provide benefits for an employee, former employee, or the dependents of an employee or former employee that duplicate the benefits provided under this Act.
(b) Construction.—Nothing in this Act shall be construed as prohibiting the sale of health insurance coverage for any additional benefits not covered by this Act, including additional benefits that an employer may provide to employees or their dependents, or to former employees or their dependents.
Other co-sponsors who are running, or considering a run, for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2020 are Sen. Kirsten Gellibrand (D-NY) and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA).
The version of the bill that was in introduced in the House of Representatives, by former Rep. John Conyers (D-MI), H.R. 676, allows private health insurance but requires all for-profit private health insurance companies to become non-profit organizations — with the U.S. Treasury covering the cost of the companies’ expected losses.
Co-sponsors include Democratic presidential candidate Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI), and potential candidate Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-CA).
Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News. He is a winner of the 2018 Robert Novak Journalism Alumni Fellowship. He is also the co-author of How Trump Won: The Inside Story of a Revolution, which is available from Regnery. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.