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OpEdNews Op Eds    H2'ed 7/31/19

The Fatal Flaw in Kamala Harris' Health Plan

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Sen. Kamala Harris has become the latest presidential candidate to unveil a healthcare plan. Her proposal would take current Medicare, including the private plans known as Medicare Advantage, and extend it to the entire population. Her staff says that her plan would sharply limit out-of-pocket costs and cap premium rates at current levels.

As presented, the Harris plan is substantially better than Joe Biden's, and is a considerable improvement over most of the other health proposals put forward by other Democrats. It recognizes that today's out-of-pocket health care costs are unsustainable for most Americans, even those with "good" insurance. Unfortunately, it still falls short of the Medicare For All plan offered by Sen. Bernie Sanders and Rep. Pramila Jayapal.

For one thing, her numbers don't work. And her plan has an overarching, fatal flaw: It relies on the benevolence and good intentions of America's health insurers.

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American health insurance corporations, including the ones behind most Medicare Advantage plans, have a documented history of disregarding patients' health and well-being when it threatens profits. Today's Advantage plans are conducting a covert war against single-payer Medicare, posing an existential threat to the system most Americans picture when they think of Medicare.

Its defenders will liken the Harris plan to certain European models of health care. But, unlike their European counterparts, American insurance companies have developed two forms of troublesome expertise: political manipulation, and predatory marketing. These twin traits have twined around the American health system like strands of a double helix, and they will strangle the Harris health plan.

Missing Numbers

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Out-of-pocket costs (copays and deductibles) play a major role in determining which plan people choose. The Harris plan is still somewhat vague on that score, although Harris and her aides have been offering some clarification.

CNN quotes a "campaign aide" as saying her plan would limit out-of-pocket costs to $200 per year. If true, that would be a significant improvement over the financially devastating status quo.

The other major household cost is premiums. One of the great advantages of today's Medicare is its low premiums. If you register on time, there is no charge for Medicare Part A (hospital coverage). Standard monthly premium for outpatient care (Part B) is $135 per month, and the average cost for drug coverage is $34 per month. (Remember, these premiums apply to the costliest age group the elderly.)

Would Harris extend these low premiums to the general population? Apparently not. She has emphasized that, while the Sanders/Jayapal plan adds a 4 percent tax on income above $29,000, she wouldn't assess new taxes on households making less than $100,000 per year. HuffPost's Jonathan Cohn adds:

"Harris campaign uses the terms taxes & premiums interchangeably in this context (as many people do). So, campaign official confirmed to me, when they say no new taxes for $100k household income, they also mean no new premiums."

"No new premiums" isn't very clear, however. If it means that households won't pay more than they pay today, that's not nearly as good as it sounds. Under the ACA, many lower-middle-income households are paying more than 10 percent of their income for premiums, thanks to a design flaw known as the "subsidy cliff."

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Many other middle-income households pay more than 4 percent in premiums. That means many working families would pay substantially less under the Sanders/Jayapal proposal. The Harris campaign should be pressed to clarify their numbers, but right now they don't look good for working families.

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Richard Eskow Social Media Pages: Facebook page url on login Profile not filled in       Twitter page url on login Profile not filled in       Linkedin page url on login Profile not filled in       Instagram page url on login Profile not filled in

Host of 'The Breakdown,' Writer, and Senior Fellow, Campaign for America's Future

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6 people are discussing this page, with 7 comments


John Jonik

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A comment posted here at Op Ed also about the debates in general:


Funny....not....that not one candidate mentioned in Debate I or II that private for-profit health insurers invest Billions...with the B...into top health-damaging industries such as everyone's despised cigarette makers, and pesticides, pharms that even make tobacco pesticides and additives, fracking, oil, arms makers, nukes, coal, GMOs, junk foods,and the whole sorry rest. Not to mention that insurer investments in Pharms is a glaring conflict-of-interest.
Big Insurance is the largest investor bloc on Wall Street. Who's told,even by Single Payer advocates, about that?

No voters are asked by candidates...even Bernie...if they approve of this.

The US would have a public health system....as in developed countries elsewhere....if only the US didn't contain, and uber-alles serve, Wall Street

Submitted on Thursday, Aug 1, 2019 at 5:46:08 AM

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Dennis Kaiser

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I've said it before and I yell it louder now "Beware of Kamala Harris!"

Her explanation of her healthcare plan reminds one of watching a squirrel cross the road not knowing which direction to take before getting hit by the vehicle due to its indecision.

Her problem, like on other issues, is she attempts to please everyone. In this case, she used the term Medicare for all because that is the latest buzzword yet also hears the Republican talking points of personal insurance. One could possibly find the insurance industry being a major contributor to her campaign. As Tulsi Gabbard pointed out Kath Sebelius, who is on the Board of Directors of a Medicare Advantage start-up, is involved in Harris' convoluted plan. The Medicare Advantage companies are among the largest gougers of people with their inflated deductibles and co-pays.

This is but one issue Harris, who is similar to Trump, has a difficult time dealing with the truth.

Submitted on Thursday, Aug 1, 2019 at 12:02:39 PM

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Daniel Geery

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She's a f'n war hawk. Which is why the CIA and Co. advocate for her.

Submitted on Thursday, Aug 1, 2019 at 7:27:58 PM

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Thomas Brown

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We wont need one if climate isnt addressed first.

Submitted on Thursday, Aug 1, 2019 at 1:49:40 PM

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molly cruz

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We have in our various overseas allies, a variety of approaches to health care to study. I think one huge "Disaster Fund" should be established to cover any problems we have anywhere any time. But we have an established, capitalist health regime. Had we not, we could tailor one out of the blue so to speak, and not put anyone's nose out of joint. How about a compromise and let the private companies MANAGE the public insurance? Offer it, as it were, and do the dirty work of signing up people and finding them appropriate doctors in the neighborhood if they just got there, etc. Washington can do no more than set National Standards, incorporating them into our Constitution, that bible so often referred to when decisions get mucky.

So, just like the coal miners, we can't just dump a format without considering the people locked into the old one. You don't just stop feeding your watchdog because you got surveillance cameras.

So let the present day health insurers have the bureaucratic end of the health insurance plan, make cards and keep records etc. Washington can only screw that end up, and it's not what Washington is for anyway.

Submitted on Thursday, Aug 1, 2019 at 5:02:32 PM

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How about a compromise and let the private companies MANAGE the public insurance?


A compromise? That's precisely what we have! For anyone who hasn't been asleep for the past few decades. It's worked out just great for those millions dying in our streets.

Submitted on Thursday, Aug 1, 2019 at 7:34:39 PM

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911TRUTH

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The greatest flaw in her MFA plan is that she wants to phase it in over 10 years.

In other words, it will never happen.

A very clever ploy to claim you want MFA to get elected while keeping the for-profit parasites in place and running the show - forever.

Submitted on Thursday, Aug 1, 2019 at 5:07:11 PM

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