Democratic Sen. Kamala Harris of California has announced that she will co-sponsor a single-payer health care bill proposed by Independent Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont. Harris is the first Democratic senator to back the legislation.
On Aug. 30, Harris disclosed that she would support Sanders' bill during a town hall meeting in Oakland, California.
"Here, I'll break some news: I intend to co-sponsor the Medicare-for-all-bill, because it's just the right right thing to do," Harris told her constituents, according to CNN.
The California senator asserted that a single-payer health care system would be both morally and fiscally responsible.
"This is about understanding, again, that healthcare should be a right, not a privilege," Harris continued. "And it's also about being smart. It is so much better that people have meaningful access to affordable health care at every stage of life, from birth on. Because the alternative is that we as taxpayers otherwise are paying huge amounts of money for them to get their health care in an emergency room."
Harris later took to social media to announce her support for Sanders' pending "Medicare for All" legislation.
"I'm co-sponsoring [Bernie Sanders'] Medicare for All Bill because healthcare is a right," Harris tweeted out, including a link to a petition for the legislation. "Add your name if you agree."
Sanders responded by tweeting "Thank you [Kamala Harris] for your support. Let's make healthcare a right, not a privilege."
On March 25, Sanders announced during a town hall in Vermont that he would introduce a single-payer health care bill titled Medicare for All. The independent senator asserted that the proposal would gain public support in contrast to GOP lawmakers' efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA), according to Vermont Public Radio.
Sanders is set to introduce the bill in September, when Congress returns from its August recess. On Aug. 11, Sanders acknowledged that his legislation would face an uphill climb in a GOP-majority Congress.
"Look, I have no illusions that under a Republican Senate and a very right-wing House and an extremely right-wing president of the United States, that suddenly we're going to see a Medicare-for-all, single-payer passed," Sanders told NPR.
Sanders added that the point of his bill would be to make universal health care a national conversation.
Harris had previously signaled mixed support for single-payer health care. On July 4, the California senator disclosed during a rally that she supported the idea but was not committed to a particular proposal.
"As a concept, I'm completely in support of single-payer, but we've got to work out the details, and the details matter on that," Harris said, according to KABC.
Sanders' proposal would cost an estimated $1.38 trillion per year. The Vermont senator plans to offset the costs by raising several income tax rates, CBS News reports.
On June 23, a Pew Research Center survey found that 60 percent of national adults believed that it was the government's responsibility to ensure health coverage for all Americans while 39 percent believed it was not. Further, 33 percent of national adults supported a single-payer system while 25 percent favored providing coverage through a mixture of government and private programs.