At a town hall in Oakland last night, Sen. Kamala Harris announced that she plans to co-sponsor Sen. Bernie Sanders' single-payer health care bill, which he will be introducing in September.
"I'll break some news. I intend to co-sponsor the Medicare for All bill because it's just the right thing to do. It's just the right thing to do," Harris said at the end of the meeting.
The California senator also said that she supports a single-payer system because it is "smart" and fiscally responsible. "It's so much better people have meaningful access to affordable health care at every stage from birth on because… we as taxpayers otherwise are paying huge amounts of money for them to get their health care in an emergency room. 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."
As The Hill notes, this is the first time Harris has come out publicly in support of single-payer healthcare. In July, speculation circulated around the possibility that Harris, who has been touted as a "rising star" in the Democratic party, would make a presidential run in 2020. Political organizers on the left, however, expressed doubts that Harris was committed to progressive goals, citing her history as California's attorney general.
"If she wants to advance her political career, she will have to come out authentically and honestly in support of universal healthcare, free college, a federal $15 hour minimum wage, criminal justice reform and the expansion of social security programs," Winnie Wong, the founder of the grassroots group People for Bernie, told Mic.
Harris' support of Medicare for All certainly bolsters her credibility. In an interview with Broadly following Harris' announcement, Wong said she is "happy to see Senator Harris is hearing what millions of people across America are demanding. This is an issue which cuts across party lines, and she's taking a bold position in the fight for single-payer healthcare."
Indeed, the US health care system in its current state consistently ranks last among wealthy countries. A recent CDC report found that 28 million people are still uninsured and people routinely die because they don't have access to treatment. How other Democratic senators respond to the Medicare for All bill in the coming weeks will be telling.