Sen. Bernie Sanders said he wants to make “health care a right for every American,” and the health-care industry is “flooding my opponents with cash.”

Share story

Sen. Bernie Sanders invoked indicted pharmaceutical executive Martin Shkreli in a fundraising email linking campaign finance and the availability of affordable health care to suggest he is stronger on the issues than Hillary Clinton.

“What is stopping us from guaranteeing free, quality health care as a basic fundamental right for all Americans? I believe the answer ties into campaign-finance reform,” Sanders said in the email, which went out this week. “The truth is, the insurance companies and the drug companies are bribing the United States Congress.”

He said he wants to make “health care a right for every American,” and the health-care industry is “flooding my opponents with cash.”

“Now, I don’t go around asking millionaires and billionaires for money. You know that,” Sanders wrote. “I don’t think I’m going to get a whole lot of contributions from the health-care and pharmaceutical industries. I don’t like to kick a man when he is down, but when some bad actors have tried to contribute to our campaign, like the pharmaceutical CEO Martin Shkreli who jacked up the price of a lifesaving drug for AIDS patients, I donated his contribution to an AIDS clinic in Washington, D.C.”

He went on to say that Clinton, the Democratic Party’s front-runner for the presidential nomination in most polls, has received “millions of dollars from the health- care and pharmaceutical industries” and more this campaign cycle from those sectors than did the top three Republican presidential candidates combined.

“Let’s not be naive about this; maybe they are dumb and don’t know what they are going to get?” Sanders added. “But I don’t think that’s the case, and I don’t believe you do, either.”

Clinton has received many thousands more dollars from the health-care industry than Sanders has, according to breakdowns from the Center for Responsive Politics. She was also critical of Shkreli over the increased cost of a vital AIDS drug when the issue first surfaced in the media.

Christina Reynolds, a spokeswoman for Clinton, said her candidate “takes a back seat to no one when it comes to fighting to expand quality, affordable health-care coverage for all Americans. She has spent her entire career standing up to the insurance industry and drug companies — and she has the scars to prove it.”

She pointed to Clinton’s effort on a universal health-care initiative in 1993, when her husband, Bill Clinton, was president, and noted the Children’s Health Insurance Program grew out of that. She also said Clinton wants to improve on the Obama administration’s Affordable Care Act.