(Bloomberg) — Before the election, Bernie Sanders might have believed that the strongest opposition to his government-funded health care proposal would come from Republicans. But as he gains on Iowa on Hillary Clinton, it has been the Democratic front-runner who has launched a series of attacks on his plan, painting it as a giant tax on the middle class.
Clinton’s latest criticisms focus on how Sanders would pay for his plan, which would cost an estimated $15 trillion over 10 years. In a Wednesday conference call with reporters, the Clinton campaign pointed out that while Sanders told CNN Tuesday night he would “absolutely” outline funding for his health care plan before the Iowa caucus, the Vermont senator’s campaign manager Jeff Weaver said this week that Sanders would “not necessarily” release those details by Feb. 1.
On Wednesday, the Sanders campaign also released its plans to pay for all its proposals except its health care plan. Weaver did not return a request for comment on Wednesday.
“I think that one can only draw the conclusion that the Sanders campaign doesn’t want to outline what is going to amount to a massive, across the board tax hike on working families,” Clinton senior policy advisor Jake Sullivan said during Wednesday’s call with reporters.
Asked on MSNBC Wednesday afternoon how he would pay for his plan, Sanders simply repeated his argument that America spends more on health care now than it would under a single-payer system. “We would pay for it obviously through increased—through premiums,” Sanders said. “Right now the American people are spending $3 trillion a year on health care, and a lot of that money is going into the private insurance companies and the drug companies which is why we pay far more per capita than do the people of any other country.”
During an appearance in Iowa on Monday, Clinton said her opponent’s plan would put Americans’ health care in the hands of governors, calling it a “risky deal.”
Chelsea Clinton chimed in while campaigning Tuesday for her mother in New Hampshire, saying she’s worried that Sanders’ plan would give Republican governors the power to “strip millions and millions and millions of people off their health insurance.”
The Sanders campaign has countered that their single-payer health care system would operate in all 50 states, regardless of who is governor, and has responded to Hillary Clinton’s attacks by using her own words against her. In 2008, they pointed out, Clinton said then-Sen. Barack Obama’s description of her health care proposals “undermined core Democratic values” and employed many of the same attacks as Republicans and the health care industry.