California Senator Kamala Harris announced at a town hall event in Oakland Wednesday that she plans to co-sponsor Bernie Sanders’s Medicare For All bill when he introduces it in September. “It’s just the right thing to do,” she said as she got a standing ovation. Then she paused for a moment and added, laughing, “Somebody should tell my staff” (see the 1:27:00 point in her Facebook video).
Harris went on:
It is so much better that people have meaningful access to health care, from birth through the rest of their lives. The alternative is that we, as taxpayers, are spending huge amounts of money to send them to emergency rooms.
Hey, wouldn’t it be something if the end result of Donald Trump and congressional Republicans’ complete and utter fuckery in trying to repeal the Affordable Care Act got us to the actual honest-to-god next step of real single-payer? Not that any eventual positive outcome is really “worth” the fuckery, so no, Susan Sarandon, don’t you go getting smug!
As the Washington Post notes, it wasn’t exactly a surprise, since Harris had been talking about universal health care all during the recent fuck-tussle over the inhuman Senate GOP bill to repeal the ACA, slash Medicaid, and allow women to get birth control only with the written permission of their husbands, two physicians and Jesus Christ Himself.
Following the town hall, Harris told reporters,
I think there’s no question that we have to get to a point where all people have access to affordable health care […] As we talk about moving towards a single-payer system, I think there is certainly momentum and energy around it. When I get back to DC I’ll have a better idea of where [other senators] are now that they’ve been home.
Senator Sanders was happy, you bet:
Harris joins Elizabeth Warren and Kirsten Gillibrand in publicly endorsing single-payer, but she’s the first Democratic senator to commit to co-sponsoring the Sanders bill. Even though it has no chance of passing unless Democrats retake Congress in 2018 — and would probably be vetoed by President Trump if he’s still around, and definitely by President Pence if he isn’t — it’s an excellent start toward the goal of bringing a sensible healthcare system to the USA.
The actual details of Sanders’s bill have yet to be worked out, but just the words “Medicare for all” are already a far more concrete plan than anything Donald Trump ever said about healthcare. Harris added she thinks Americans’ overwhelming rejection of the Republican plan to gut Obamacare bodes well for single-payer:
“The recent history on the issue of health care is very telling,” she said. “Americans are making it very clear, when they defeated the repeal of ACA, that they don’t want us playing politics with their health care. They’ve made it very clear that this is not an issue they identify with through their party affiliation. That’s very promising.”
So here’s hoping more Democrats get on board with single-payer (right now, more than half of Democrats in the House are supporting John Conyers’s OG Medicare For All bill), or at least with an effort to shore up the ACA and expand benefits to people in states that didn’t expand Medicaid, where there’s a gap between subsidized plans on the exchanges and the limit on Medicaid eligibility.
We’re encouraged, so now let’s all have a big fight over whether fixing the ACA is actually a centrist sellout and a betrayal of real progressivism, or whether single-payer is a pie-in-the-sky dream that we have to hold off on. Actually, let’s not do that. Medicare For All FOR ALL, HOORAY!
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