Pete Buttigieg is mayor of South Bend, Ind., and is a candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination.

Earlier this year, I lost my father to cancer. I make decisions for a living, but nothing could have prepared me for the kind of decisions our family faced as his illness grew more serious. But as challenging as that time was for my family, one thing we did not have to worry about was whether his illness would bankrupt our family. Because he was covered by Medicare, we were free to focus on what mattered most.

I want every family to have that same freedom. But as anyone who has ever visited a doctor knows, health care in the United States remains too expensive, too complicated and too frustrating. The system seems almost designed to leave us feeling powerless and confused.

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As president, I will put Americans in charge of their own health care with affordable choices for all. I’ll ensure that every American has access to affordable coverage either through private insurance or a public alternative. If a private insurance plan through your employer or the marketplace isn’t affordable, you can get a plan that is. It’s what I call “Medicare for All Who Want It.”

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Many Democrats have proposed a Medicare-for-all plan, and while each of us would achieve universal coverage, there’s a real difference between the plan I’m announcing on Thursday and the ones offered by candidates such as Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Elizabeth Warren (Mass.). Rather than flipping a switch and kicking almost 160 million Americans off their private insurance, including 20 million seniors already choosing private plans within Medicare, my plan lets Americans keep a private plan if they want to. If private insurers are unable or unwilling to offer better plans than they do today, competition from this public alternative will naturally lead to Medicare-for-all.

And with my plan, we can achieve universal health care and a public alternative without raising taxes on the middle class. I’ve always said that anyone who lets the words “Medicare-for-all” escape their lips should tell us just as plainly how they plan to get there. The only way we’ll rally Americans behind a reform that affects so much of our lives and our economy is if we’re honest and straightforward about the details. So I’ll be upfront: My plan will cost about $1.5 trillion over a decade, paid for by cost savings and corporate tax reform to ensure big corporations pay their fair share.

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My approach isn’t just the right thing to do for Americans — it will bring us together rather than push us even further apart, so we can achieve our bold objective of universal affordable health care.

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Lower-income people living in states that haven’t expanded Medicaid would be automatically enrolled in the public plan. Others without insurance, such as those who forgo employer coverage because it is too expensive or those who do not purchase coverage on the exchanges because they are not eligible for subsidies, would also have access to join the public plan with income-based subsidies.

We’d also make private health care more affordable for the millions of Americans who struggle to pay their premiums. For example, a 60-year-old in Iowa making $50,000 could face a monthly premium of roughly $1,000 for the most popular type of marketplace plan — nearly a quarter of their annual income. Our plan would cap marketplace premiums at 8.5 percent of a person’s income, which means that the same 60-year-old would pay no more than $354 a month for better-quality coverage.

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My plan would also take an extra step to reach universal coverage by automatically enrolling those eligible for free coverage in Medicaid or the public coverage alternative. And anyone who falls through the cracks and ends up needing health care would be retroactively enrolled in the public plan.

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That’s only part of how our plan would empower Americans. We’d also ban the surprise medical billing that has left patients slapped with five- or six-figure bills after a bike crash or a heart attack. We’d limit out-of-pocket costs for seniors on Medicare and ensure that health providers such as hospitals price their services fairly by capping out-of-network rates at twice what Medicare would pay for the same service. My administration would also bring transparency to pricing and reduce the wasteful administrative costs that ultimately get passed down to patients. On top of Medicare for All Who Want It, our campaign will be putting forward additional plans to address issues such as drug pricing, innovation and health equity.

With bold and unifying policies such as Medicare for All Who Want It, let’s bring down costs and guarantee coverage for everyone. Let’s put power into the hands of each American and create a healthier future for us all.

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