(Bloomberg) — Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders laid out an ambitious $1.3 trillion plan to remake the U.S. health care system, in which the government would pay most Americans’ medical bills in place of private insurers.
Sanders’ plan, released hours before he confronts Hillary Clinton in a Democratic primary debate, would go far beyond the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) that she supports. He would upend health care in the nation, essentially swapping higher taxes for most individuals and businesses for the private insurance premiums Americans pay today. Overall, Sanders said, his plan would save the nation $6 trillion over the next decade.
“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.”
Under the Sanders proposal, health care would be paid for by a 2.2 percentage-point increase in the individual income tax, a new 6.2 percent health care payroll tax on employers, higher estate taxes on wealthy Americans and a “more progressive” tax code, including higher tax brackets for the wealthy.
While the current highest tax bracket is 39.6 percent for Americans making $415,051 and more, the proposal calls for a 43 percent tax rate on income between $500,000 and $2 million; a 48 percent rate on income between $2 million and $10 million; and a 52 percent rate on income above $10 million. The Sanders campaign estimates his health plan would cost $1.38 trillion a year.
Hillary Clinton’s campaign has targeted Sanders’s proposal, saying it would be a massive tax hike on middle class families and demanding details on his payment plan before the Iowa caucuses. He and Clinton are expected to continue to spar Sunday night over his health care plan as well as his voting record on guns.
In a statement responding to Sanders’s plan, Clinton spokesman Brian Fallon noted that Sunday’s plan differs from past single-payer bills the Vermont senator has introduced in Congress. Fallon also knocked Sanders for introducing the plan so close to the start of the debate, after also announcing his support for repealing immunity for gun manufacturers on Saturday.