Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) released his health-care reform platform Sunday ahead of the latest Democratic debate, where the plan’s departure from the Affordable Care Act (ACA) took center stage.
Sanders’ “Medicare-for-all” proposal detailed the candidate’s long-awaited plan to do away with the ACA and replace it with a universal single-payer system—a plan once supported by Hillary Clinton. The plan promises to eliminate all co-pays and deductibles, claiming that the average family of four would pay $466 per year for the program.
“Universal health care is an idea that has been supported in the United States by Democratic presidents going back to Franklin Roosevelt and Harry Truman,” Sanders said in a statement announcing the plan. “It is time for our country to join every other major industrialized nation on earth and guarantee health care to all citizens as a right, not a privilege.”
The proposal is estimated to cost Americans $1.38 trillion to implement, according to the campaign. Sanders proposed a universal 2.2 percent income tax on all Americans, a 6.2 percent payroll tax to be paid for by employers, and an estate tax on the wealthy to help pay for it.
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The Sanders campaign justified the tax increases by arguing that both employers and the average person would save money annually on health-care costs. A family earning about $50,000 per year would save about $6,000 each year, while businesses would save roughly $9,500 annually.
The proposal makes no specific mention of reproductive health care, or how women, who are protected under the ACA from insurers charging them more than men for the same plan, would be impacted by the move.
As the margins between the two narrow in the polls, both the Sanders and Clinton campaigns have ramped up rhetoric on why their health-care platforms are superior, sparring on the subject in Sunday’s debate in Charleston, South Carolina.
“I am absolutely committed to universal health care,” Clinton said, defending her charge that Sanders’ plan would “tear up” the ACA.
“We finally have a path to universal health care. We have accomplished so much already. I do not to want see the Republicans repeal it, and I don’t to want see us start over again with a contentious debate. I want us to defend and build on the Affordable Care Act and improve it,” Clinton concluded.
Sanders fired back that Clinton’s claims were “nonsense,” noting that he was on the committee that helped write the ACA in the first place and that his plan would help those who remain uninsured or underinsured.
The release of Sanders’ platform comes after a week of calls from the Clinton campaign for him to release the details of how he would pay for his single-payer program.
Clinton has also faced scrutiny over her change-of-heart on universal health care by those who note that the former secretary of state, who previously backed a single-payer system, has accepted millions in speaking fees from the health industry in recent years.