ORLANDO, Florida — In another nod to primary rival Bernie Sanders, Hillary Clinton is proposing to increase federal money for community health centers and outlining steps to expand access to health care across the nation.
Clinton’s campaign says the proposal is part of her plan to provide universal health care coverage in the United States. The presumptive Democratic presidential nominee also is reaffirming her support for a public-option insurance plan and for expanding Medicare by letting people age 55 year and older opt in.
The announcement Saturday was a clear gesture toward Sanders, who ran a strong primary campaign against Clinton and has held back from endorsing her candidacy as the party’s convention nears.
In a statement, Clinton said: “We have more work to do to finish our long fight to provide universal, quality, affordable health care to everyone in America.”
Clinton’s campaign noted that Sanders had promoted doubling money for primary care services at federally qualified health centers. Money for these centers was increased under the Affordable Care Act, an effort led by the Vermont senator.
According to the Clinton campaign, her proposal would make money for these centers permanent and expand it by $40 billion over the next 10 years. Her campaign said the money would be mandatory and not subject to annual appropriation. The proposal would more than double the money for the centers, which currently get $3.6 billion annually.
Sanders, in a conference call after the Clinton campaign’s announcement, said her proposal “will save lives” and “ease suffering” and represented “an important step forward in expanding health care in America and expanding health insurance and health care access to tens of millions of Americans.”
The health care proposal follows on Clinton’s recent announcement of new ways to tackle college affordability, including a plan that ensures families with annual incomes up to $125,000 pay no tuition at in-state public colleges and universities.
That initiative was seen as a response to Sanders’ call for free tuition at all public colleges and universities, an idea popular with the young voters who flocked to his rallies.
Clinton’s policy overtures come as Sanders appears to be close to supporting her candidacy.
Two Democrats with knowledge of Sanders’ plans told The Associated Press that Sanders was closing in on offering his public endorsement of Clinton. The Democrats spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss private conversations they were not authorized to disclose.
Clinton’s campaign has announced a stop in New Hampshire on Tuesday but did not say whether Sanders also would attend.
Sanders told reporters that the two campaigns “are coming closer and closer together in trying to address the major issues facing this country.” He added: “We’ll have more to say, I think, in the very near future.”
Clinton and Sanders frequently clashed over health care during the primaries. Sanders campaigned on a “Medicare for all” plan that would have provided universal coverage. Clinton said that would undercut President Barack Obama’s health law, rely too heavily on GOP governors and reopen a contentious debate with Republicans in Congress.
Clinton’s health care priorities have centered on capping out-of-pocket costs for prescription drugs and providing tax credits for families facing high medical costs.
Clinton has reiterated her support for a “public option” for states to set up their own health insurance plan to compete against private insurers. Sanders was instrumental in passing legislation that would allow that.
Both supported a public insurance option at the national level but opposition from moderate Democrats prevented that proposal from being included in the health overhaul law.