Sep 21, 2019

Bernie Sanders aims to wipe out medical debt collection

Sen. Bernie Sanders campaigns at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill campus on Sept. 19. Photo: Preston Ehrler/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Sen. Bernie Sanders released new details on Saturday for his plan to cancel $81 billion in U.S. medical debt, which is separate from his "Medicare for All" plan.

The big picture: Medical debt burdens Americans without health insurance and, increasingly, those who have insurance with "high deductibles or limited networks of doctors whose care is paid for," the New York Times reports. Surprise medical bills have also grown more common and more expensive.

Reality check: Sanders wants the federal government to "negotiate and cancel the debts," but his plan "does not specify the precise mechanism" to achieve this, per the Times.

In his plan, Sanders wants to:

  • Have the IRS review billing and collection practices of nonprofit hospitals.
  • Replace for-profit credit reporting agencies with a "secure public credit registry."
  • Stop requiring the disclosure of medical debt discharge on housing and loan applications.

The bottom line: Craig Antico, founder of the nonprofit charity R.I.P. Medical Debt — which buys and absolves health care debt in bulk — "estimated that the market price for $81 billion in debt could be as low as $500 million," the Times reports.

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Between the lines of Bernie Sanders' plan to eliminate medical debt

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Sen. Bernie Sanders released his 2020 plan to cancel $81 billion in existing medical debt, reform collections practices and change bankruptcy rules this weekend.

Why it matters: The proposal speaks directly to the issues of surprise medical bills and hospitals' lawsuits against patients — issues that have only recently entered the political lexicon.

Go deeperArrowSep 23, 2019

Joe Biden's higher education plan includes free community college

Joe Biden speaking at a candidate forum. Photo: Ethan Miller/Getty Images

Joe Biden's 2020 campaign unveiled a $750 billion higher education plan Tuesday that includes tuition-free community and technical college — with the federal government picking up 75% of the cost and allowing states to cover the rest — as well as more generous federal college loan programs, per the AP.

The state of play: Biden's plan isn't as far reaching as those put forth by his opponents, Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, who both offer plans exceeding $1 trillion. Sanders' plan proposes eliminating all student loan debt, while Warren calls for broad debt relief based on income.

Go deeper ... Debt-free college: Where the 2020 presidential candidates stand

Bernie Sanders secures Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez endorsement at New York rally

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez speaks to a crowd of supporters for Sen. Bernie Sanders during a campaign rally on Oct. 19 in New York City. Photo: JOHANNES EISELE / Contributor/Getty Images

2020 candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) on Saturday held his first campaign rally since his recent heart attack and surgery, joined by freshman Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.)

Why it matters: Sanders formally secured the coveted Ocasio-Cortez endorsement during the rally in Queens. The support shows Sanders is still a "formidable contender" and shifts the "conversation away from his health issues and age, infusing his campaign with a renewed sense of vitality," writes the New York Times.

Go deeperArrowOct 19, 2019