Sanders previews plan to cancel all past-due medical debt

White House hopeful Sen. Bernie SandersBernie Sanders2020 Dems slam Trump decision on West Bank settlements Sanders doubles down on Bolivia 'coup,' few follow suit Overnight Health Care: GOP senator says drug price action unlikely this year | House panel weighs ban on flavored e-cigs | New York sues Juul 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 Ann Warren2020 Dems slam Trump decision on West Bank settlements Sanders doubles down on Bolivia 'coup,' few follow suit Overnight Health Care: GOP senator says drug price action unlikely this year | House panel weighs ban on flavored e-cigs | New York sues Juul MORE (D-Mass.) and Kamala HarrisKamala Devi HarrisKamala Harris endorses Christy Smith in bid to fill Katie Hill's seat Poll: Biden holds 11-point lead over Warren in Arizona Poll: Biden and Warren are neck and neck in California MORE (D-Calif.) — have proposed varying forms of Medicare for All. 

Former Vice President Joe BidenJoe Biden2020 Dems slam Trump decision on West Bank settlements Trump calls latest impeachment hearings 'a great day for Republicans' Overnight Health Care: GOP senator says drug price action unlikely this year | House panel weighs ban on flavored e-cigs | New York sues Juul 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.