Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

Sanders Unveils Plan to Wipe Out All Medical Debt in US, Declaring, 'The Very Concept Should Not Exist'

"In the wealthiest country in the history of the world, one illness or disease should not ruin a family's financial life and future."

Julia Conley

Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders addresses an audience on the campus of the University of Chapel Hill during a campaign rally on September 19, 2019 in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. (Photo: Sara D. Davis/Getty Images)

Pledging to end the "immoral and unconscionable" practice of collecting debt from families who have endured an illness or hospital stay, Sen. Bernie Sanders on Saturday unveiled his plan to wipe out all medical debt in the United States.

The Vermont Independent senator and 2020 Democratic presidential candidate announced his proposal to eliminate the $81 billion in medical debt carried by American households days after asking his supporters on social media about the money they owe debt collectors due to medical emergencies or illnesses they experienced in the past.

The Sanders campaign heard back from more than 50,000 people who shared stories of the debts that have proven impossible to pay off, sending their credit scores plummeting and affecting families' daily lives.

"The very concept of medical debt should not exist," Sanders said Saturday. "In the wealthiest country in the history of the world, one illness or disease should not ruin a family's financial life and future."

Medical bills contribute to 66 percent of bankruptcies in the U.S., and one in six Americans have at least one past due medical bill on their credit reports. Nearly 80 million Americans report struggling to pay their medical expenses.

Under Sanders's plan, in addition to eliminating all existing medical debt, the senator would establish a public registry to replace the three major credit report agencies, including Equifax, whose security breach left the personal and financial information of 140 million people exposed in 2017. The registry would "remove the profit motive from assessing the creditworthiness of American consumers."

The senator would also bar medical debts from being included on credit reports and end the practice of credit checks for housing, job applications, and other non-lending practices.

"It is immoral and unconscionable that families across the country are finding themselves nearly broke or bankrupt because of crippling medical debt while the healthcare industry made more than $100 billion in profits last year," Sanders said in a statement. "My administration will  take on the greed of the healthcare industry."

The plan won praise on social media from progressives, journalists, and people who shared how they would benefit from the elimination of medical debt.


Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.

We've had enough. The 1% own and operate the corporate media. They are doing everything they can to defend the status quo, squash dissent and protect the wealthy and the powerful. The Common Dreams media model is different. We cover the news that matters to the 99%. Our mission? To inform. To inspire. To ignite change for the common good. How? Nonprofit. Independent. Reader-supported. Free to read. Free to republish. Free to share. With no advertising. No paywalls. No selling of your data. Thousands of small donations fund our newsroom and allow us to continue publishing. Can you chip in? We can't do it without you. Thank you.

Biden's Student Debt Relief to Cost a Fraction of US Giveaways to the Megarich and Pentagon

"In contrast to President Trump and Republicans who gave giant corporations $2 trillion in tax breaks, President Biden delivered transformative middle-class relief," said two senators.

Jessica Corbett ·


'Climate Change Is the Asteroid,' Say Critics of NASA Earth Defense Mission

"The actual clear and present danger to humanity is of course Earth breakdown from burning fossil fuels," said one NASA climate scientist.

Brett Wilkins ·


After Nearly a Decade in Exile, Snowden Granted Russian Citizenship

While the whistleblower said "a little stability" would benefit his family, one digital rights advocate noted that "if the Biden administration dropped the charges against Snowden, Putin wouldn't be able to use him for a PR stunt."

Jessica Corbett ·


Peace Group Urges US and China to Halt 'Blatantly Provocative' Military Maneuvers

The co-chairs of the Committee for a SANE U.S.-China Policy called on American and Chinese leaders to "immediately take unilateral and bilateral steps to reduce the risk of an accidental or unintended clash."

Brett Wilkins ·


In 'Unprecedented Democratic Exercise,' Cubans Approve Inclusive Family Code

"This is a milestone in the advancement of democracy," said global grassroots coalition Progressive International. "Nowhere in the world has a family law been submitted for public consultation and subject to a referendum."

Julia Conley ·

Common Dreams Logo