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Hillary Clinton speaks to a crowd at Iowa State University on Tuesday, January 12. (Photo: Max Goldberg/flickr/cc)

'Fighting Dirty,' Clinton's 'Inflammatory Distortion' of Sanders' Single-Payer Plan

In Iowa and New Hampshire, Hillary and Chelsea Clinton go on offense regarding Sanders' Medicare-for-All proposal

Deirdre Fulton

Perhaps spurred by palpable momentum around Bernie Sanders' presidential campaign, Hillary Clinton took aim this week at a centerpiece of her chief rival's platform—and political career—a Medicare-for-All program that he says would save the average U.S. family thousands of dollars a year in healthcare costs.

At campaign stops in Iowa and New Hampshire on Monday and Tuesday, both Hillary and Chelsea Clinton directly criticized Sanders on healthcare policy.

"To claim that expanding Medicare to all would hand it over to state governors is a crude, inflammatory distortion, and shows an indifference to all those people who continue to be harmed by a broken system."
—Jean Ross, National Nurses United

"His plan would take Medicare and Medicaid and the Children's Health Insurance Program [CHIP] and the Affordable Care Act health-care insurance and private employer health insurance and he would take that all together and send health insurance to the states, turning over your and my health insurance to governors," Hillary Clinton said Monday. "I don't believe number one we should be starting over. We had enough of a fight to get to the Affordable Care Act. So I don’t want to rip it up and start over."

She echoed the argument on Tuesday, the same day a Quinnapiac poll showed Sanders overtaking her in Iowa, 49 percent to 44 percent. Reiterating her claim that Sanders' plan would jeopardize the Affordable Care Act and effectively turn over health coverage programs to the states, many of them led by Republican governors, she said: "If that’s the kind of 'revolution' he's talking about, I'm worried, folks."

Since his campaign launched last year, Sanders has repeatedly called for a political revolution "to transform our country economically, politically, socially and environmentally." The Sanders campaign told The Week on Tuesday that it would come out with an official campaign plan on healthcare "quite soon."

Meanwhile, serving as a campaign surrogate in New Hampshire on Tuesday, Chelsea Clinton declared:

Sen. Sanders wants to dismantle Obamacare, dismantle the CHIP program, dismantle Medicare, and dismantle private insurance. I worry if we give Republicans Democratic permission to do that, we'll go back to an era—before we had the Affordable Care Act—that would strip millions and millions and millions of people off their health insurance."

This isn't the first time that Hillary Clinton has attacked single-payer healthcare, having done so in November and December of last year.

In a statement on Monday, Sanders spokesman Michael Briggs hit back: "Secretary Clinton is inaccurate in suggesting that Republican governors would be able to circumvent the law and deny implementation in their states." Referring to a single-payer proposal he put forth in 2013, Briggs added: "The bill Sen. Sanders introduced was very clear. It is national legislation for all states."

National Nurses United added its voice to those defending Sanders' proposal, accusing Clinton of deliberately distorting the facts.

"Surely Hillary Clinton knows that Medicare and Medicaid are national programs, and that they would be funded as national programs," said NNU co-president Jean Ross. "To claim that expanding Medicare to all would hand it over to state governors is a crude, inflammatory distortion, and shows an indifference to all those people who continue to be harmed by a broken system."

And they weren't the only ones who seized on the Clinton camp's comments.

But as Ryan Cooper wrote at The Week, "it's obvious what's happening here. Clinton has been flagging in the polls of late, and as usual she's turned to fighting dirty."


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