Four other White House candidates in the U.S. Senate – Kamala Harris of California, Kirsten Gillibrand of New York, Cory Booker of New Jersey and Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts – have signed on to Sanders’ Senate bill, although they have been less adamant about eliminating private insurance.
Harris, who has risen in polls since the debate, said on CNN that her preferred version of Medicare for All would reduce but not end private insurance, and would include an opportunity to purchase supplemental insurance. The Medicare program for seniors now includes private supplemental plans.
Harris also told CNN she would not favor a middle-class tax increase to pay for the plan. Sanders has said he would pay for his bill with a combination of taxes on employers, individuals, businesses and the wealthy.
The liberal Urban Institute estimated the Sanders plan would cost $32 trillion over a decade, with the additional taxes raising about $15 trillion.
Republicans have criticized the Sanders bill as a socialist pipe dream that would be too costly and weaken the U.S. healthcare system. They have promised to make it a main issue in the election.
Some Democrats worry Sanders, who pushed eventual nominee Hillary Clinton to the left during their 2016 primary, would prevail on issues such as healthcare and leave the party vulnerable against Trump.
“We can’t let Senator Sanders be the reason we lose to Donald Trump. We can’t afford more impossible promises from politicians,” said presidential contender John Delaney, a former congressman who barely registers in opinion polls.
On Wednesday, Sanders challenged his campaign rivals to reject donations from the health insurance and pharmaceutical industries, saying it was a crucial step toward fundamental reform.
“You can’t change a corrupt system by taking its money,” Sanders said in his speech.
“If we are going to break the stranglehold of corporate interests over the healthcare needs of the American people, we have got to confront a Washington culture that has let this go on for far too long,” Sanders said.
The Sanders campaign said his pledge not to accept health insurance and pharma money would cover donations above $200 from drug and health insurance industry lobbyists, executives and political action committees. It would not apply to rank-and-file workers.
Candidates who are unwilling to take the pledge, Sanders said, “should explain to the American people why those interests believe their campaigns are a good investment.” (Reporting by John Whitesides; Editing by Colleen Jenkins and Grant McCool)