Harris unveils her flavor of Medicare for All, what you need to know to stream the debates tomorrow and Wednesday, more about that CNN climate town hall, Sanders and Warren lead the pack in number of donations, plus Debate Bingo is here and I’m still bugging you about it.

Harris unveils her Medicare for All-ish healthcare plan

This morning, Senator Kamala Harris released her new healthcare plan in a Medium post titled, “My Plan For Medicare For All.” Reading from under the heading, “How We Get to Medicare For All,”

“Medicare works. It’s popular. Seniors transition into it every day, and people keep their doctors and get care at a lower cost. Let’s not lose sight that we have a Medicare system that’s already working.
Now, let’s expand it to all Americans and give everyone access to comprehensive health care. Medicare for All will cover all medically necessary services, including emergency room visits, doctor visits, vision, dental, hearing aids, mental health, and substance use disorder treatment, and comprehensive reproductive health care services. It will also allow the Secretary of Health and Human Services to negotiate for lower prescription drug prices.”

Okay, so at first glance, this sounds very much like Harris is proposing that we do the Sanders bill, which is called Medicare for All—and that’s what, at least until day, we have meant when we said “Medicare for All.” But in fact, Harris is proposing something rather different here, but not giving it a new name. And that’s going to be confusing, so I’m gonna propose at least for now that we call this Harris Medicare for All, to distinguish from Sanders Medicare for All. Cool? Okay.

Under Harris Medicare for All, Americans will have the option to buy into Medicare as a public option under Obamacare. Yes, you heard that right—this plan starts as a public option, and completely unlike the Sanders Medicare for All plan, Harris explicitly starts off by keeping private insurance around. That’s likely to poll very well—last week, we talked about how popular a public option is among the ENTIRE electorate, and how EXTREMELY popular it is among Democrats.

Okay. So. Harris starts with a public option. Then she proposes a 10-year period over which Medicare begins to take over all health care. For instance, she suggests that newborn children are enrolled in Medicare automatically, and the uninsured get the same plan too. This 10-year period is designed to give doctors and patients alike the time to get onboard with the plan. This is a distinct contrast with the Sanders approach, which gives just four years for everybody to move on over. Harris says that this longer window, “will also lower the overall cost of the program.”

Then, Harris gets at a massive difference versus the Sanders approach, in which she says let’s allow private health insurers to stick around and keep offerings plans, however, they must meet Medicare standards. She is essentially about something called Medicare Advantage, which today is an option that allows for seniors to buy into private insurance plans while on Medicare. Reading from the Harris plan:

“...[I]n setting up this plan, we will allow private insurers to offer Medicare plans as a part of this system that adhere to strict Medicare requirements on costs and benefits.
This would function similar to how private Medicare plans work today, which cover about a third of Medicare seniors, and operate within the Medicare system. Medicare will set the rules of the road for these plans, including price and quality, and private insurance companies will play by those rules, not the other way around. This preserves the options that seniors have today and expands options to all Americans, while also telling insurance companies they don’t run the show.”

Then Harris goes on to promise strict enforcement of consumer protection standards for those plans, and also explicitly tells us why, exactly, private health insurance companies would bother to stick around at all under this new system.

“People will also be able to purchase supplemental insurance covering services not included in Medicare, such as medical insurance for traveling abroad, or cosmetic surgery.”

That’s pretty similar to what Sanders proposed in terms of the cosmetic surgery thing, but seems to leave the door open a little bit wider in terms of what Medicare does or does not cover. It’s clear that Harris is trying to throw a bone to the health insurance industry by saying, essentially, yes, there are ways for you to remain in business here, though we will regulate the heck out of you. Oh yeah, and she keeps the out-of-pocket expenses that current Medicare patients pay, unlike the Sanders plan. That definitely makes it cheaper for the government, and more on that in a minute.

Harris’s flavor of Medicare for All starts out looking a whole lot like a public option for Obamacare, with this long, slow transition to a true Medicare for All system, BUT it preserves the private health insurance market along the way. Some pundits are already seeing this as having your cake and eating it too. But to be honest, I think the way to understand this plan is to say, “Not enough people have cake right now. And, as a federal system, we can’t make the cake fast enough without blowing up the economy. So how about we expand some access to cake immediately, and then slowly transition into a single-cake-maker model, with private bakeries still in the mix if they follow our recipe.” Now, I know that’s a tortured metaphor, but I also think it’s a policy that appeals to a huge chunk of the middle-left, as well as centrists and some people who lean right. In other words, this, like the Biden plan, is likely a winning policy in a general election, and is slightly to the left of Biden, so it’s kind of a compromise to reach out to the folks who are currently aligned with Sanders and Warren on this issue.

OKAY. So, how much will this cost and how will Harris pay for it? Well, I was gonna read the 500 words that Harris wrote about that, but, you know, you can go read that if you want. The basic deal is Harris pays for it the same way that Sanders does, which is MOSTLY by imposing a 4 percent healthcare tax on households. BUT, and this is a BIG BUT, she exempts every household making under $100,000 dollars, whereas Sanders exempts only households making under $29,000 dollars. Meaning if your household makes under $100k, you’re not paying that tax. To make up for that difference, you’re still paying co-pays just like Medicare patients today, AND she adopts a Wall Street transaction tax that we’ve discussed several times before on this show—that tax would affect people who make stock trades, plus banks and other financial institutions.

So. That’s the deal: Medicare for All but on a ten-year time scale, different middle-class tax structure to pay for it, and keep private insurance around…KIND OF.

What you need to know to STREAM the debates tomorrow and Wednesday

Next up, here’s what you need to know about streaming the debates this week. Don’t worry, we’re keeping it short. So they will air tomorrow—that’s Tuesday—and the next day, which is Wednesday, July 30th and 31st. They happen from 8pm to 10pm Eastern Time, which for our international listeners is actually 0 hours UTC to 0200 UTC on the next day. Sorry about that, European friends, maybe watch this after you wake up.

The debates are hosted by CNN, and the moderators are Dana Bash, Don Lemon, and Jake Tapper. The format is fairly similar to the June debates, with 60-second responses along with 30-second follow-ups. CNN claims it will actually reduce time if candidates abuse the rules, and there will be no yes-or-no // or show-of-hands style questions.

Okay, I DO need to clear up some WRONG INFO I gave y’all last week. This is my mistake, and it came from a misunderstanding of the DNC rules.

So here’s it is: these debates, at least as far as CNN is telling us today, WILL NOT BE ON YOUTUBE. Or Facebook, or Twitter, or any of that stuff.

What you HAVE to do is either go to CNN dot com, where you can watch for free without a login, at least during the actual live debates, OR you can download the CNN or CNNgo apps—which are available for pretty much all the smart TVs, and Chromecasts, and Rokus, and phones and tablets and everything. Those are normally login-only, but apparently will turn free for the two debate nights. Now, I hope nothing goes wrong with that. And maybe make sure you update all your apps and stuff, just in case.

Now, IF you happen to have a subscription to DIRECTV NOW, or Hulu with Live TV, or Playstation Vue, or Sling TV, or YouTube TV, you can just tune into CNN on those because that’s a channel you’re paying for. Same if you have cable TV, CNN is typically in the basic cable bundle, so you just turn on CNN, or use the app and log in with your cable provider’s info.

But the key point is—at least as of today, CNN is saying you DO need to get THEIR apps, rather than use the popular social streaming sites. So, that’s annoying, but GET READY FOR IT NOW because you don’t want to be fiddling with installing or updating some random CNN app on Tuesday night. Links are in the show notes to the CNN page with details, plus a Roku blog page about how to stream live, and which apps do what.

More about that CNN climate town hall

On Friday, I mentioned that CNN was holding a “Democratic presidential town hall” on the issue of climate change, but that I hadn’t seen any details yet. Well, here’s the run-down. It will be held on September 4th, which is a Wednesday, in New York City. It will, of course, be televised on CNN.

So here is the controversial part. Unlike the MSNBC event I talked about on Friday, CNN is only inviting candidates in the Democratic primary who meet the same polling criteria that the DNC requires for the September debates. What that means is, the only candidates invited will have to reach 2 percent in each of 4 polls sanctioned by the DNC by August 28th. They will NOT require a fundraising threshold. My notes right now indicate that this means we’ll see:

Biden, Booker, Buttigieg, Harris, Klobuchar, O’Rourke, Sanders, and Warren.

What’s sort ironic-slash-sad about that is that Governor Jay Inslee, who started this whole thing, does not meet that polling threshold right now. And neither does former hedge fund manager Tom Steyer, who is running with a significant climate platform as well.

Like the rest of the field, both candidates have just under one month to pick up those polls. Looking at a Politico roundup of current polls, Inslee has ZERO qualifying polls, so he’ll need to pick up four. Steyer currently has TWO qualifying polls, so he’ll just need two more. But it’s entirely possible that the single-issue candidate focused on climate change, Inslee, will not be in CNN’s climate forum. Yikes.

Sanders and Warren lead the pack in number of donations

Back on April 12th, Senator Bernie Sanders picked up his one millionth campaign donation of this cycle. That doesn’t mean one million donors, it means one million donations, because each donor can—and often does—chip in many times.

I didn’t see that news back then, so I didn’t report on it. That Sanders announcement came in a brief tweet, which is linked in the show notes. It did include a short video, but that video didn’t have any sound, so you don’t get to listen to that.

Anyway, imagine my surprise when, on Friday, both Axios and The New York Times ran detailed stories about how Senator Elizabeth Warren has just reached one million donations, and announced it with a tweet. On July 26th. For those counting along at home, that’s about three and a half months after Sanders did the same thing.

Here’s audio from the Warren tweet in which she makes a cell phone call to the person who made the one millionth contribution to her campaign, identified only as “Caitlyn.” I have removed a part here when Warren’s initial call doesn’t go through, and just gone to the working call. Listen in:


Now in the New York Times story, it’s noted that, oh by the way, Sanders actually crossed TWO MILLION DONATIONS on July 11th. So. Great job for both candidates—and by the way, they are the ONLY two candidates in this Democratic field to reach the one-million donation milestone so far—but I do think it’s a little weird that the headline was about Warren reaching this milestone, without an accompanying story that one of her competitors had already doubled it two weeks before.

Well anyway, that happened, let’s move on.

Debate Bingo is still coming and I’m still bugging you about it

Last up today, another reminder about Election Ride Home Debate Bingo—this is a free, fun way to play along at home while watching the debates. We have ten bingo cards for each night, the link to download them is at the very top of the show notes. Again, if you’re listening to this on something that doesn’t HAVE show notes, just hop on over to ridehome dot info slash BINGO.

The bingo cards are FREE, there are no prizes, but hey, it’s fun and sort of vaguely educational.

I will remind you about this one more time tomorrow when the show comes out, but let’s face it, you’ll probably already be sitting down in front of the TV by about that time.

Don’t forget to PRINT! And print SINGLE-SIDED, or else half your cards will be unusable, on the under-side of a card you are currently playing.

Okay, go get ‘em, enjoy ‘em, and print ‘em at work or at school because hey, there’s probably technically not a rule against that. Right? I mean they probably owe you some paper and ink and whatever.

One last thing today, now I was GONNA do a whole big segment on what to expect at the debates, like in terms of content and issues, but I think if you’ve listened to this show AT ALL, you already know what you’re in for.

The only thing I need to add is that there will be a BUNCH of people on the stage who see this, quite correctly, as their last shot at national media attention.

So, yeah, we’re going to hear about health care policy, and everybody’s gonna try to dunk on Joe Biden, and all that business, BUT there are at least eight candidates who have very little to lose in these debates. This is their last shot, and they are going to go kookoo bananas in an attempt to make some kind of media splash the next day.

So if you thought the last ones were a food fight, like, roll out a tarp in front of your TV because this is gonna get messy.