The Corner

Health Care

Gillibrand’s Single-Payer Dishonesty

Senator Kamala Harris of California isn’t the only Democratic presidential candidate who’s dissembling about her plans for private health insurance. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand of New York is another.

Abigail Adams of Time recounts her debate performance on the question.

Before the debate: Like several of her Senate colleagues running for president, Gillibrand is a co-sponsor of Sanders’ Medicare-for-all plan as well as other more moderate proposals. She has often said she believes a single-payer system is the best way to ensure universal health care, but believes private insurance will naturally be driven out of the market because it will not be able to compete with Medicare-for-all.

After the debate: When the debate moderators asked candidates to raise their hands if they would abolish private insurance, Gillibrand notably did not. The New York Senator explained that she supports Medicare-for-all, but as she has said in the past, she views the four years of transition in Sanders’ bill as vital to its success.

“The plan that Senator Sanders and I and others support, Medicare-for-all, is how you get to single payer. But it has a buy-in transition period, which is really important. In 2005 when I ran for Congress in a two-to-one Republican district, I actually ran on Medicare-for-all and I won that two-to-one Republican district twice. And the way I formulated it was simple: Anyone who doesn’t have access to insurance they like, they could buy it in a percentage of income they could afford,” she said.

What Gillibrand didn’t say: At the end of the third year of the transition, the federal government would prohibit private insurers from selling policies covering what the new Medicare for all” program does. The old joke about politicians is that you can tell they’re lying when their lips move. Sometimes Gillibrand manages to do it when her arm doesn’t move.

Ramesh Ponnuru is a senior editor for National Review, a columnist for Bloomberg Opinion, a visiting fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, and a senior fellow at the National Review Institute.

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