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Hillary Clinton strongly backs public option, wins praise from Bernie Sanders

Clinton and Sanders at a Democratic debate in March.
Melina Mara/The Washington Post via Getty

On Saturday morning, Hillary Clinton released a new health care policy proposal that emphasized several major progressive priorities, including a public option and increased funding for community health centers.

In the proposal, Clinton pledged:

  • To give Americans in every state a "public option" health insurance plan
  • To let Americans as young as 55 years old opt in to Medicare
  • And to double funding for primary care services at community health centers

Now, these aren’t really new ideas for Clinton. She said at a campaign event in May that she supported "the public option, so that people can buy into Medicare at a certain age." And she’s long supported community health centers.

But the fact that she’s formally backing these progressive priorities at this moment — rather than pivoting to more centrist ideas as the general election contest approaches — is a testament to the influence of Bernie Sanders’s campaign. And it may be a prelude to an endorsement from Sanders as soon as next week.

Sanders: "The Clinton campaign and our campaign are coming closer and closer together"

Indeed, in a press call after Clinton’s announcement, Sanders described her health care proposal as an "extremely important initiative" and "an important step forward" — and emphasized that it was made "after discussions with our campaign."

Sanders also praised Clinton’s new plan to encourage free tuition at public universities, which she announced Wednesday. He called the plan, which was deeply influenced by his own ideas, "a very profound proposal" that would help "revolutionize the funding of higher education in America."

"I think it’s fair to say," Sanders went on, "that the Clinton campaign and our campaign are coming closer and closer together in trying to address the major issues facing this country."

Of course, Sanders is still further to the left on health care than Clinton. For decades, he’s consistently supported a single-payer system, a plan Clinton has criticized for being politically impossible to enact.

Still, according to multiple reports, Sanders is expected to endorse Clinton on Tuesday in New Hampshire. And if he in fact does so before the Democratic convention later this month, that will send a strong signal that the Democratic Party can unify around the goal of electing Clinton — and stopping Donald Trump.

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