Kamala Harris backs single-payer health care, then backtracks

During the Democratic presidential debate on Thursday night, California Sen. Kamala Harris was the only candidate, alongside Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, to raise her hand when NBC’s moderators asked who supported outlawing private health insurance in favor of shifting toward a single-payer plan.

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But the California Democrat backtracked on Friday, saying she misheard the question and that she actually doesn’t support eliminating private health insurance in the U.S.

“Once and for all, do you believe that private insurance should be eliminated in this country?” co-host Willie Geist asked Harris on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.”

“No,” Harris said. “No, I do not. But the question was, ‘Would you give up your private insurance for that option?’ And I said yes.”

“Oh, I think you heard it differently than others then,” Geist responded.

“Probably,” Harris said. “That’s what I heard.”

She went on to clarify that she’s a proponent of Medicare-for-all, but that private insurance can supplement that coverage. In her vision, coverage would be expanded to include dental and vision care.

But it’s not the first time that Harris has been forced to clarify -- and walk back -- a comment on supporting Medicare-for-all. In January, during a CNN town hall, she voiced support for a single-payer system.

“The idea is that everyone gets access to medical care and you don’t have to go through the process of going through an insurance company,” she said. “Let’s eliminate all of that, let’s move on.”

Harris and her staff later clarified that she also backs more incremental and less drastic policy plans for expanding health care.

Health care has emerged as a divisive issue among the 2020 presidential hopefuls, with candidates split between supporting Medicare-for-all or keeping health care private. Over the course of the two-night debates, only three candidates said, outright, that they should support Medicare-for-all if elected: Sanders, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio.