Chelsea Clinton hit the trail for the first time this election cycle on Tuesday to campaign for her mother, and she came out swinging.
In New Hampshire, the younger Clinton attacked Bernie Sanders’ Medicare-for-all, or single-payer, health care plan by wondering if it would in fact take away coverage from millions of people.
“Sen. Sanders wants to dismantle Obamacare, dismantle the CHIP program, dismantle Medicare, and dismantle private insurance,” she said, according to MSNBC. “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.”
Chelsea Clinton is technically right: Millions of Americans would lose their current health insurance plans, which would be replaced by enrollment in a coverage program available to all (except, perhaps, undocumented immigrants). But it’s unclear how a plan that would make almost everyone eligible for coverage would strip millions of health care coverage, which is what Clinton seemed to be saying. (The Clinton campaign did not immediately respond to a request for comment.)
Sanders’ health care plan, which he outlined in legislation in 2013, would replace the current piecemeal approach to coverage through many different programs—private insurance, Medicare, Medicaid, CHIP—with government-provided coverage for everyone. As with the Affordable Care Act’s health care exchanges, Sanders’ 2013 bill relies on states to develop single-payer plans. But as the Sanders campaign stresses, any state that refused to set up a singe-payer system would have the federal government step in and do it. So unlike with the current Medicaid expansion, states could not opt out of “Berniecare.”
“It is time for the United States to join the rest of the industrialized world and provide health care as a right to every man, woman, and child,” Sanders campaign spokeswoman Arianna Jones said in a statement responding to Chelsea Clinton’s attack. “A Medicare-for-all plan will save the average middle-class family $5,000 a year. Further, the Clinton campaign is wrong. Our plan will be implemented in every state in the union regardless of who is governor.”
Like her daughter, Hillary Clinton has taken to attacking Sanders over health care, despite having said in 2008 that Democrats shouldn’t criticize each other over universal health care. In Iowa on Monday, Clinton called Sanders’ plan a “risky deal.” Expect this issue to come up on Sunday, when Clinton and Sanders face off in the last debate before voting begins with the February 1 caucuses in Iowa.