July 17, 2019 / 2:31 PM / a month ago

Sanders to urge 2020 rivals to reject health insurance industry donations

WASHINGTON, July 17 (Reuters) - U.S. presidential candidate Bernie Sanders, pushing an ambitious “Medicare for All” health plan that has split Democratic White House contenders, will urge his rivals on Wednesday to reject campaign donations from the health insurance and pharmaceutical industries.

Fundamental healthcare reforms will be impossible if politicians are indebted to the industry, according to an excerpt of a speech Sanders will deliver later on Wednesday.

“You can’t change a corrupt system by taking its money,” the excerpt released by his campaign says.

“If we are going to break the stranglehold of corporate interests over the healthcare needs of the American people, we have got to confront a Washington culture that has let this go on for far too long,” Sanders will say.

The speech will defend Sanders’ proposal to shift Americans into a Medicare-based, single-payer government-run health insurance system that largely eliminates private insurance. Medicare is the government insurance plan for the elderly.

The proposal has come under fire from some of his Democratic rivals led by former Vice President Joe Biden, who has called it an unrealistic and costly threat to former President Barack Obama’s signature healthcare law known as Obamacare.

The Sanders Medicare for All proposal has become the biggest source of division in the Democratic battle to pick a challenger to Republican President Donald Trump in 2020.

Four other White House candidates in the U.S. Senate - Kamala Harris of California, Kirsten Gillibrand of New York, Cory Booker of New Jersey and Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts - have signed on to the Sanders Senate bill, although they have been less adamant about eliminating private insurance.

The Sanders campaign said the pledge would cover donations above $200 from drug and health insurance industry lobbyists, executives and political action committees. It would not apply to rank-and-file workers.

Candidates who are unwilling to take the pledge, Sanders said, “should explain to the American people why those interests believe their campaigns are a good investment.”

Reporting by John Whitesides; Editing by Bernadette Baum

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