Bernie Sanders Reveals Plan To Make $81 Billion in Medical Debt Disappear

Democratic presidential contender Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont on Saturday said that if he is elected president, he will implement an $81 billion plan he said would eliminate the overdue debt Americans owe for health care-related expenses.

The proposal calls for the government to negotiate with collectors, according to the Washington Examiner. The exact mechanism for how that would take place was not included in the plan.

The medical debt-relief plan would be paid for through a tax on corporations based on how much they pay their CEOs, the Sanders campaign said, according to Reuters. No details of how that would work were released.

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The plan is the latest big-ticket proposal released by the Sanders campaign. Earlier last week, he released a $2.5 trillion plan he said would provide affordable housing for all Americans. Sanders has already proposed that the government should wipe out all student debt.

Sanders is currently in third place in the race for the Democratic presidential nomination, trailing front-runner former Vice President Joe Biden and Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts. Sanders had been running second to Biden, but has been overtaken by Warren, who has released a vast number of policy proposals as part of her campaign.

“In the United States of America, the wealthiest country in the history of the world, one illness or disease should not ruin a family’s financial life and future. In America today, it is unacceptable that one out of every six Americans have past-due medical bills on their credit report, totaling $81 billion. The largest share of that medical debt is held by 27-year-olds who lose access to their parents’ insurance after age 26. Today, 25 percent of 24 to 55 year olds throughout the country have outstanding medical debt,” the Sanders campaign states on its website.

“When Bernie is in the White House, he will fight to make sure that no one in America goes bankrupt because of medical debt and will eliminate all past due medical debt in this country,” the campaign site stated.

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The campaign makes the claim that “500,000 people are bankrupted by medical expenses each and every year — and the true number may be far higher.”

According to the Washington Examiner, the number was based on a March article in the “American Journal of Public Health” by Dr. David Himmelstein. (Subscription required.)

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However, the study did not say medical bills were the specific trigger for bankruptcies, according to the Examiner. Instead, the study said medical expenses were one factor in the financial distress facing those who went bankrupt.

“Often, a bankruptcy has multiple causes, and disentangling one from the others isn’t something that can be done,” Himmelstein wrote, according to the Examiner. “There are a whole lot of things in life that have multiple causation and can’t be fully disentangled.”

Sanders also said he wants to create a new system of rating credit that does not take medical debt into account.

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One commentator said it was unclear if the plan Sanders is proposing would have as significant an impact as Sanders claims.

The plan “is well-targeted,” Neale Mahoney, a professor of economics at the University of Chicago, told The New York Times. “It just may not be that much relief.”

Although Sanders said he wants to wipe out medical debt, he said he will not propose the same for consumer debt, according to Fox News.

“I don’t believe we wipe out credit card debt. You want something, you pay for it,” Sanders said. “If you want to go out and buy a fancy house, you want to go out and buy a yacht, and you go in debt, hey that’s your decision…But I do believe we have to make a distinction. Getting cancer is not your decision. And I think we have a moral obligation to do everything we can to cancel that debt.”

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Sanders touted his plan, despite its high cost.

“Compared to what?” he asked in an early September interview with Fox. “Compared to the $1.5 trillion that Trump gave in tax breaks to the one percent and large corporations. Compared to the billions of dollars that we spent bailing out the crooks on Wall Street 11 years ago. It is a lot of money but I think it’s the right thing to do,” Sanders said.

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