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2020 Election Update: Sanders Says Reject Big Pharma Money; Harris’ Medicare for All Has Private Option

Sanders Calls on Rivals to Reject Pharma Donations

Bernie Sanders is calling on his Democratic presidential rivals and the rest of the party to reject donations from pharmaceutical and health-insurance industry political action committees, executives and lobbyists.

Sanders’s campaign says he will argue in a speech he’s set to deliver Wednesday that it is impossible to overhaul the U.S. health care system while also taking donations from the industry.

“You can’t change a corrupt system by taking its money,” according to prepared remarks. “If we are going to break the stranglehold of corporate interests over the health care needs of the American people, we have got to confront a Washington culture that has let this go on for far too long.”

Sanders will release a pledge for other candidates in which they would agree not to knowingly take any donations of more than $200 from those industries. The pledge lists more than 150 companies belonging to the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America and America’s Health Insurance Plans, including Allstate Insurance and Eli Lilly & Co.

The challenge will come as part of a broader speech in which Sanders, who has seen declines in recent national polls, will defend his “Medicare for All” health proposal. Former Vice President Joe Biden, the current front-runner in the race, said this week he wants to add a public option to the Affordable Care Act, arguing that it is a far less costly approach.

Harris’s Medicare for All Has a Private Option

Democratic presidential candidate Kamala Harris said her Medicare for All plan wouldn’t end private insurance. At least not right away.

“Medicare for All means that everyone will have access to health care and that cost will not be a barrier,” Harris told CNN in an interview aired Wednesday.

“As it relates to private insurance, there will still be supplemental insurance, but yeah, transitioning into Medicare for All will at some point reduce the requirement for insurance because everyone will have access to health care,” she said.

Harris has been accused of waffling on her health care plan, embracing Medicare for All but trying to find a narrow path between two competing constituencies in the Democratic Party.


On one side are progressives such as Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders who embrace a Medicare for all system that would eliminate most private insurance. On the other side are moderates, including front-runner Joe Biden, seek to preserve Obamacare but would add on new government-run options in an effort to maximize consumer choice.

Harris said on CNN that private insurance would remain a “supplemental” option, under her plan. But that would eventually not be needed as there won’t be a need. She also said she doesn’t see a middle-class tax hike needed to fund her proposal, and she’d instead eye more targeted new revenue sources such as going after Wall Street.

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