U.S. presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders released a plan Saturday to eliminate $81 billion in medical debt for Americans, going a step beyond his Democratic rivals who have called for a government-run health insurance program.
“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,” Sanders said in a statement. Medical costs account for 66.5 percent of all bankrupticies, Sanders added.
Sanders promised to pay off overdue medical bills that have been reported to credit agencies and end harassing debt collecting practices, which would prohibit the collection of debt beyond a statute of limitations.
Sanders also vowed to reform bankruptcy laws and create a public credit registry to “remove the profit motive from assessing the creditworthiness of American consumers.” He said he would exclude medical debt from credit reports and end credit checking for rental housing, employment, insurance and other non-lending practices.
Sanders made no mention in the proposal of how he planned to cover the $81 billion cost, though according to Reuters the Sanders campaign has said they would pay for the debt elimination through a tax on corporations based on their pay for chief executives. The details of that proposal have not been released.
Sanders was one of the first supporters of “Medicare-for-All,” which would replace job-based and individual health insurance with a government-run plan to provides coverage for all. Other top Democratic rivals have expressed interest in a toned-down version of Medicare-for-All. Sen. Elizabeth Warren has endorsed Sanders’ plan but said there may be different ways to achieve coverage for all. Biden has called to extend the Affordable Care Act by adding a public option.
Sanders also released a plan to eliminate $1.6 trillion in student loan debt while also making public college tuition-free.
Sanders has been trailing frontrunner Biden in the polls. Sanders polled at 18 percent while Biden captured 29 percent of Democratic support, according to the most recent Fox News poll.