Pledging to end the “immoral and unconscionable” practice of collecting debt from families who have endured an illness or hospital stay, Sen. Bernie Sanders on Saturday unveiled his plan to wipe out all medical debt in the United States.
The Vermont Independent senator and 2020 Democratic presidential candidate announced his proposal to eliminate the $81 billion in medical debt carried by American households days after asking his supporters on social media about the money they owe debt collectors due to medical emergencies or illnesses they experienced in the past.
The Sanders campaign heard back from more than 50,000 people who shared stories of the debts that have proven impossible to pay off, sending their credit scores plummeting and affecting families’ daily lives.
“The very concept of medical debt should not exist,” Sanders said Saturday. “In the wealthiest country in the history of the world, one illness or disease should not ruin a family’s financial life and future.”
Medical bills contribute to 66 percent of bankruptcies in the U.S., and one in six Americans have at least one past due medical bill on their credit reports. Nearly 80 million Americans report struggling to pay their medical expenses.
Under Sanders’s plan, in addition to eliminating all existing medical debt, the senator would establish a public registry to replace the three major credit report agencies, including Equifax, whose security breach left the personal and financial information of 140 million people exposed in 2017. The registry would “remove the profit motive from assessing the creditworthiness of American consumers.”
The senator would also bar medical debts from being included on credit reports and end the practice of credit checks for housing, job applications, and other non-lending practices.
“It is immoral and unconscionable that families across the country are finding themselves nearly broke or bankrupt because of crippling medical debt while the healthcare industry made more than $100 billion in profits last year,” Sanders said in a statement. “My administration will take on the greed of the healthcare industry.”
The plan won praise on social media from progressives, journalists, and people who shared how they would benefit from the elimination of medical debt.