Clinton Gives Sanders A Nod, Formally Backs Public Healthcare Option

Hillary Clinton, with a nod to Senator Bernie Sanders, formally backs creating a “public healthcare option” within the Affordable Care Act and allowing people to enroll in Medicare at the much younger age of 55, reports the Huffington Post.

Clinton also fully embraced a popular proposal from her former Democratic rival, calling for a substantial increase in funding for medical clinics that serve low-income Americans.

Although Clinton has a long history of support for the creation of government-run insurance options similar to the “healthcare for all” proposal that has become a popular pillar of Sanders’ platform, this is the first time the Clinton campaign has formally endorsed the idea. And the timing of the endorsement couldn’t come at a better time — a mere three days before she is scheduled to make her first joint appearance with Sanders, who has consistently supported government-run insurance and federally financed clinics throughout his career.

In what may be yet another nod to Sanders, his popular platform, and his enthusiastic supporters, Clinton has also modified her own proposal on college tuition assistance, enhancing it and modelling it to more closely align with the more sweeping proposals that Sanders has sketched out.

Sanders, who ran a surprisingly strong but ultimately unsuccessful campaign for the Democratic nomination, is expected to endorse Clinton at that Tuesday event. Saturday’s announcement on health policy follows a similar one from Clinton earlier in the week, that she was enhancing her own proposal on college tuition assistance to match the considerably more generous version Sanders had sketched out, the Huffington Post reported earlier this week.

Clinton released some details in a press release late Saturday morning.

“We have more work to do to finish our long fight to provide universal, quality, affordable health care to everyone in America. Already, the Affordable Care Act has expanded coverage to 20 million Americans. As president, I will make sure Republicans never succeed in their attempts to strip away their care and that the remaining uninsured should be able to get the affordable coverage they need to stay healthy.”

Sanders says that Clinton’s move towards a public healthcare option was the product of discussion between the two campaigns, and he was quick to support Clinton’s proposal, openly praising it as “an extremely important initiative” and predicting that “it will save lives, it will ease suffering, it will improve health care in America, and it will cut health care costs.”

A public healthcare option, as Jacob Hacker, a political scientist from Yale, describes it, would “create a separate, government-run insurance plan that would compete with private insurers offering coverage through the Affordable Care Act’s exchanges.” The idea behind the public healthcare option is that the increased competition would keep premiums for all the insurance plans low, especially if the public healthcare option is given the ability to dictate low reimbursement rates to doctors, hospitals, pharmaceutical companies, and other suppliers of medical care.

A public healthcare option has long been the dream of Democrats. President Barack Obama included versions of it in their initial proposals on health care reform in 2009 but ended up scratching it in order to appease more conservative Democrats. The idea of a Medicare buy-in has also been around for some time, and Clinton has repeatedly expressed support for both ideas during her 2016 campaign. But Saturday’s announcement and formal endorsement of a public healthcare option shows that she is taking the idea seriously, and will promote the idea as president.

Her formal endorsement of the idea may also appease the more progressive wing of the party’s voters, who have supported Sanders in his bid for the presidential nomination. Many of them have remained skeptical of Clinton’s progressiveness and her commitment to their shared values and goals.

On the other side of the political field, Republican nominee Donald Trump’s healthcare plan, which calls for the repealing of the Affordable Care Act, would lower premiums for policies purchased directly by consumers, according to an independent study released on Thursday. However, the study found “substantial uncertainty” with one of Trump’s main ideas behind his healthcare plan — that allowing insurers to sell policies across state lines promotes competition and would lower prices. Furthermore, the healthcare plan put forth by Trump would strip an estimated 18 million low-income Americans of health coverage.

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