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Sanders previews plan to cancel all past-due medical debt

White House hopeful Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersWhat the shift in Senate control means for marijuana policy reform Business groups prepare for lobbying push against minimum wage Schumer: Senate could pave way for reconciliation on COVID relief next week MORE (I-Vt.) on Saturday previewed his upcoming plan to cancel all past-due medical debt.

Sanders, who will unveil the plan in full next month, has made the country’s health care costs a focal point of his progressive policy proposals.

Sanders's plan would cancel $81 billion in existing past-due medical debt, repeal parts of the 2005 bankruptcy reform bill and ensure that unpaid medical bills do not impact one’s credit score. Sanders has hit the 2005 bill for eliminating "fundamental consumer protections," accusing it of making it difficult for Americans to pay back medical debt by imposing stringent means tests.

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“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,” Sanders said in a news release previewing his plan. 

"That is unacceptable. I am sick and tired of seeing over 500,000 Americans declare bankruptcy each year because they cannot pay off the outrageous cost of a medical emergency or a hospital stay," he continued. "In the wealthiest country in the history of the world, 42 percent of Americans should not be losing their entire life savings two years after being diagnosed with cancer." 

Americans borrowed an estimated $88 billion to cover medical expenses in the 12 months before the April release of a Gallup and West Health report

Health care has emerged as one of the chief fault lines in the crowded Democratic presidential primary, with 2020 contenders debating the merits of a "Medicare for All" platform, the role of private insurance plans and the staying power of the Obama administration's Affordable Care Act (ACA).

Three top-tier contenders — Sanders, Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenThe Hill's Morning Report - Biden argues for legislative patience, urgent action amid crisis Financial firms brace for Biden's consumer agency chief Tim Ryan says he's 'looking seriously' at running for Portman's Senate seat MORE (D-Mass.) and Kamala HarrisKamala HarrisSen. Patrick Leahy returns home after being hospitalized What the shift in Senate control means for marijuana policy reform Vice President Harris receives second dose of COVID-19 vaccine MORE (D-Calif.) — have proposed varying forms of Medicare for All. 

Former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenDobbs: Republicans lost in 2020 because they 'forgot who was the true leader' Should deficits matter any more? Biden's Cabinet gradually confirmed by Senate MORE, who leads the field of White House hopefuls in several national polls, has panned the single-payer proposals, suggesting instead that the federal government should expand the 2010 ACA to include a public option.