DALLAS (AP) — Intensifying their rivalry, Hillary Rodham Clinton on Tuesday accused Bernie Sanders of charting a tax increase on middle-class families and undercutting President Barack Obama's signature health care law. Sanders' campaign shot back that her approach to health care was all about her financial donors.
Clinton said at a Dallas rally that Democrats shouldn't follow a plan by "one of my opponents" that would replace the current health care system with a Medicare for all system, turning it over to the states.
"We should be working to build on it. Yes, does it need to be improved? Absolutely," Clinton told nearly 2,000 supporters at Mountain View College. "One thing we should not do is follow a proposal that has been made by one of my opponents." She warned that it would empower Republican governors like Greg Abbott of Texas, drawing boos from the audience.
The Democratic front-runner said Sanders' approach would "eliminate" major pieces of the health care system, including private insurance, Medicaid, the Tricare system for veterans and other coverage. But Sanders has said his plan would incorporate Medicare into a broader system intended to cover all Americans and wouldn't mean the government would stop paying for seniors' health care.
Under Sanders' proposal, Medicaid and the Children's Health Insurance Program would be absorbed by the new "single-payer" system and be run by the states under federal rules. Private insurance companies would be sidelined to selling supplemental coverage and his plan specifies that Medicare beneficiaries would be covered during the transition.
Sanders' campaign said in response that his single-payer health system would save taxpayers money in the long run because it would eliminate wasteful health spending.
And in a sign of growing tensions between the two campaigns, Sanders spokesman Michael Briggs said Clinton backed a health care network that "props up private insurance companies and pharmaceutical companies which have given so much money to her campaigns."
Clinton also sought to draw a dividing line on taxes, saying she was the only Democrat on stage during last presidential debate committed to not raising taxes on average workers. Her campaign pointed to a bill proposed by Sanders in the Senate in 2013 to create a single-payer health care system that would have increased income taxes and payroll taxes to pay for it.
In an interview with Yahoo News' Katie Couric, Sanders questioned Clinton's invoking of the Sept. 11 attacks during the debate to address concerns she is too close to Wall Street. He said it was "a little bit silly and a little bit absurd" and has "nothing to do with the question of the impact of Wall Street campaign contributions on her view on Wall Street."
After struggling during the summer, Clinton's campaign has built a large lead over Sanders in national polls and has an edge in Iowa, the home of the first presidential caucus. A third Democratic candidate, former Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley, has been forced to shift staff from his Baltimore headquarters to Iowa and other early states as he struggles to raise money.
Both Sanders and O'Malley have pressured Clinton to support legislation in the Senate that would provide 12 weeks of paid family and medical leave and include an increase to the payroll tax. Clinton supports 12 weeks of paid leave but has not yet indicated how she would pay for her plan. "She should tell the American people how she'd actually pay for it," O'Malley said on Twitter.
Clinton, in another sign of her clout, won the endorsement Tuesday of the 2 million-member Service Employees International Union, giving her the backing of a labor power that supported President Barack Obama in 2008.
The union represents nurses, health care workers and other caregivers and is among the most ethnically diverse unions in the country. Clinton now has several large union endorsements accounting for about 10 million workers, an organizational force that will help her against Sanders.
"Hillary Clinton has proven she will fight, deliver and win for working families," said SEIU president Mary Kay Henry in a statement.
With the SEIU endorsement, Republicans said Clinton had "one of the most far-left unions in the country and has further separated herself from mainstream America," said Republican National Committee spokesman Michael Short.
Clinton's campaign also announced she will deliver a national security speech in New York on Thursday, outlining her strategy to defeat the Islamic State group and combat radical jihadism more broadly.
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