Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders is working on a plan to eliminate medical debt, CNN reports.
Sanders teased the plan during a campaign event on Friday, revealing for the first time that he is working on a proposal which would cancel $81 billion in existing past-due medical debt.
"I mean, just stop and think for a second," Sanders told the crowd.
"Why should people be placed in financial duress? For what crime did you commit? You got a serious illness? That is not what this country should be about," he added.
The Sanders campaign confirmed to CNN that the senator is working on a proposal -- which is not expected to be released for another month, and is separate from Medicare for All -- meant to address medical debt, as well as make changes to the 2005 bankruptcy bill.
In a news release supplied to The Hill, Sanders said that he is "sick and tired" of seeing Americans declare bankruptcy due to medical debt.
"In the United States of America, your financial life and future should not be destroyed because you or a member of your family gets sick," the senator said.
Sanders is the first Democratic presidential candidate to call for a cancellation of medical debt, but healthcare has emerged as one of the top issues for White House hopefuls, who remain engaged in a debate over the merits of Sanders' Medicare for All. Unlike the rest of the crowded primary field, Sanders is opposed to private health insurance having a role in the American healthcare system.
In stark contrast to Sanders, former Vice President Joe Biden -- who remains the absolute front-runner -- has argued against socialized healthcare, suggesting that the best option is upgrading the Affordable Care Act, better known as Obamacare.
Sanders' Medicare for All is the most popular policy proposal pertaining to healthcare, according to polls. For instance, a Reuters–Ipsos survey found that 70 percent of Americans support the single-payer healthcare system -- 85 percent of Democrats and 52 percent of Republicans support it.
Some have suggested that Sanders' healthcare plan is too expensive and too unrealistic, despite the fact that every developed country has universal healthcare. As The Economist pointed out, the United States is "the only large rich country without universal health care."Studies have suggested that the United States would spend less on healthcare under Sanders' plan than it is spending now. For instance, as Business Insider reported, a report from the libertarian Mercatus Center found that Medicare for All would actually save money.
According to a RealClearPolitics average of polling data, Sanders is Biden's closest competitor in the Democratic primary, and he is currently polling at 17 percent.