A growing number of Democrats are embracing single-payer health care

Sen. Kamala Harris announced this week she will sponsor a Medicare for All bill with Sen. Bernie Sanders.

U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., at a rally against the repeal or replacement of Obamacare, at Harbor-UCLA Medical Center in Torrance, Calif., Monday, July 3, 2017. CREDIT: AP Photo/Reed Saxon
U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., at a rally against the repeal or replacement of Obamacare, at Harbor-UCLA Medical Center in Torrance, Calif., Monday, July 3, 2017. CREDIT: AP Photo/Reed Saxon

Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) has become the latest high-profile Democrat to embrace expanding Medicare coverage to all Americans, the freshman senator announced at a town hall in Oakland Wednesday night.

“I’ll break some news. I intend to co-sponsor the Medicare for All bill because it’s just the right thing to do,” Harris said Wednesday. It’s just the right thing to do… But it’s also about being smart.”

Harris will co-sponsor the Medicare for All legislation with Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), who rose to prominence when he ran against former Secretary of State and eventual Democratic nominee for president Hillary Clinton in the 2016 Democratic primary.

Medicare for All was a central tenet of Sanders’ 2016 campaign, and several other prominent Democratic politicians have come out in support of Medicare for All or a single-payer system of some sort in recent months, including Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY).

Harris, Warren, and Gillibrand, along with Sanders, have all been rumored as potential candidates for president in 2020.

At her town hall Wednesday, Harris framed her decision to support Medicare for All as both a moral and fiscally responsible decision.

“It’s so much better people have meaningful access to affordable health care at every stage from birth on because the alternative [is] we as taxpayers otherwise are paying huge amounts for money for them to get their health care in an emergency room,” Harris said. “It’s not only about what’s morally and ethically right, it also just makes sense from a fiscal standpoint or a return on investment for taxpayers.”

Harris also tweeted her announcement Wednesday evening, writing, “I intend to co-sponsor the Medicare for All bill because it’s just the right thing to do.”

Sanders tweeted about her announcement Wednesday as well, saying, “Thank you @KamalaHarris for your support. Let’s make health care a right, not a privilege.”

Harris’s announcement comes after Republicans in the Senate tried and failed three times to repeal and potentially replace the Affordable Care Act. The bills floated in the Senate were estimated to leave between 22 and 32 million more people without insurance in the next decade.

The GOP’s inability to advance its health care agenda has led to widespread speculation that single-payer plans may be well-poised to gain political support. According to Pew Research Center polling released in late June, public support for single-payer health care has been on the rise.

The Senate will return to Washington D.C. from recess next week.