Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) on Wednesday became the first senator to announce that she would co-sponsor legislation adopting a national, single-payer health insurance system that Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) plans to introduce in the coming weeks.
Speaking at a town hall in Oakland, California, Harris called single payer “the right thing to do,” drawing sustained applause from the crowd of hundreds that had gathered to hear her speak.
The junior senator’s revelation is a win for left-leaning activists in two key ways. It adds high-profile support to the “Medicare for all” proposal that has become a top priority for restive progressives. And in allying with the activist base of the Democratic Party, Harris, often shortlisted for the party’s 2020 presidential nomination, is signaling her desire to assuage the concerns of her skeptics on the left.
“This is about understanding, again, that health care should be a right, not a privilege. And it’s also about being smart,” Harris said, explaining her stance at the town hall after the applause died down. “It is so much better that people have meaningful access to affordable health care at every stage of life, from birth on. Because the alternative is that we as taxpayers otherwise are paying huge amounts of money for them to get their health care in an emergency room.”
Harris had previously suggested she viewed single payer favorably, but did not commit to specific single payer legislation. At a July rally, Harris said she was supportive of single payer “as a concept,” but that “we’ve got to work out the details, and the details matter.” She made similar comments on the Pod Save America podcast in May.
Single-payer health care, in which the federal government insures all Americans through one, Medicare-type program, garnered major national attention thanks to Sanders’ 2016 presidential bid, where it was one of his chief policy promises.
At the time, the proposal drew mockery from more mainstream figures in the Democratic Party.
But with the election of President Donald Trump and the collapse of Republican efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, which combines private and public…