U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris on Wednesday told a crowd of mostly liberal activists that she plans to co-sponsor a “Medicare-for-all” bill pushed by Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders that would create a national health insurance system.
Hundreds of people who packed the Beebe Memorial Cathedral church roared and cheered in applause when Harris said she’d “break some news” about her plans. Harris posted on Twitter shortly after that she intends to “co-sponsor the Medicare for All bill because it’s just the right thing to do.”
The term is synonymous with single-payer health care, a system in which the government organizes health care financing, ending the need for insurance companies.
Her message was the opposite of that of her U.S. Senate colleague, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, who balked at supporting a single-payer system at an event in San Francisco on Tuesday night, instead voicing support for a public insurance option to compete with private plans.
Sanders quickly responded to Harris on Twitter, saying “Thank you @KamalaHarris for your support. Let’s make health care a right, not a privilege.”
In a follow-up interview, Harris told The Sacramento Bee that public attention on the national health care debate, following two failed Republican attempts to repeal and replace Obamacare, could be a signal that the time is right to adopt a single-payer system.
“As we talk about moving toward a single-payer system, I think that there’s certainly momentum and energy around that, and when I get back to D.C., I’ll have a better sense of where people are now that they’ve been home,” Harris said. “I think that the recent history on the issue of health care is very telling ... Americans are making it very clear when they defeated the repeal of the (Affordable Care Act) that they don’t want us playing politics with their health care.”
During the town hall, Harris implored hundreds of people in the audience to fight Trump and the national Republican agenda.
“This is a moment in time that is challenging us to fight – to not turn a blind eye, but to face and confront the truths that are challenging this country,” Harris said, repeating the phrase several times.
Harris said Democrats in Washington and California must continue fighting the stance of Trump and his administration on health care, climate change, gay marriage and white supremacy.
“I believe we should keep an open mind ... but the wrong side is the side with the torches and the swastikas,” Harris said, a dig at Trump’s initial response to the August white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Va.
Outside the town hall, some who identified themselves as strong Harris supporters carried signs endorsing a shelved California Senate proposal to create a universal, single-payer system for the state.
“Everyone deserves good health care,” said Abhimanyudas Das, 66, of Vallejo, who carried a sign showing his support for Senate Bill 562 from state Sens. Ricardo Lara, D-Bell Gardens, and Toni Atkins, D-San Diego.
“We all deserve it,” Das said.