Washington (CNN) - President Donald Trump knocked Democrats in incendiary terms ahead of the midterm elections with an op-ed decrying a proposal to establish a single-payer health care system.
In the rare presidential op-ed published in USA Today, Trump claimed the proposal dubbed "Medicare for all" would "eviscerate" Medicare, the popular government program providing health care to seniors and some with disabilities.
"Democrats would gut Medicare with their planned government takeover of American health care," the op-ed reads.
Championed for years by the left flank of the party, Medicare for all gained support following Vermont Independent Sen. Bernie Sanders' bid for the presidency. Many potential candidates for the party's 2020 nomination joined Sanders last year in filing a bill to establish the program, and former President Barack Obama referred to Medicare for all approvingly in a speech last month.
Trump, in his op-ed less than a month from the November elections, claimed the plan would devastate the health care industry, undercut Medicare in its current form and "inevitably lead to the massive rationing of health care."
"In practice, the Democratic Party's so-called Medicare for All would really be Medicare for None," Trump said. "Under the Democrats' plan, today's Medicare would be forced to die."
Medicare for all would gradually phase-in all Americans to a government-run system that replaces private insurance. Trump and others have pointed to the hefty price tag projected for the plan, while Sanders and the proposal's supporters have noted businesses and people would no longer have to pay premiums to private insurance companies.
In the op-ed, Trump cites a working paper from the Mercatus Center at George Mason University, which receives funding from the conservative Koch brothers. The paper says that a national single-payer system would cost $32.6 trillion over its first 10 years. The estimate is in line with one published by the left-leaning Urban Institute in 2016, that said it would increase federal expenditures by $32 trillion.
Sanders and other Democrats say the same Mercatus report claims the proposal would save Americans $2 trillion on all health care costs over the same time period.
But the author of the study has said that claim is not his conclusion but based on assumptions made by Sanders. In fact, he wrote that "it is likely the actual cost of (Medicare for all) would be substantially greater than these estimates."
Medicare and other entitlements are regular battle zones between the parties, with each accusing one another of working to destroy the popular programs.
Trump, for his part, campaigned on a pledge to protect Medicare, which is set to run out of funds in under a decade, and has worked to repeal Obamacare, which nonpartisan analysts said would lead to massive increases in the uninsured.
In the op-ed, Trump said he's kept his promise to lower health care premiums. While they have come down, his actions are not the reason insurers are lowering premiums.
Many insurers are breaking even or have started making a profit in the individual market, and the threat of Congress repealing the law has waned.
After several years of large premium increases, insurers are finally charging enough to cover the health care costs of their enrollees. More are seeing it as a viable business.
Several states have also taken steps to help insulate insurers from high-cost enrollees, which is also prompting insures to reduce their rate hikes or even lower premiums for 2019.
Trump paints Democrats as extreme
In a statement responding to the op-ed, Sanders contrasted his proposal with Trump's own record on health care and accused him of lying about Medicare for all.
"The time is now for the United States to join every other major country on Earth and guarantee health care to every American as a right not a privilege, and Donald Trump, the insurance companies and the drug companies will not stop us," Sanders said.
The op-ed painted the Democratic Party as "extreme" for the support the proposal has received from some members of the House and Senate as well as a handful of Democratic gubernatorial nominees. Trump went on to claim that a Democratic victory this fall would lead to failed socialist policies in other sectors besides health care and pointed to the calls from some to abolish the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency to say the party "is for open-borders socialism."
"If Democrats win control of Congress this November, we will come dangerously closer to socialism in America," Trump said. "Government-run health care is just the beginning. Democrats are also pushing massive government control of education, private-sector businesses and other major sectors of the US economy."
Sanders and other Democrats who support Medicare for all say that health care is a human right and should be available to all Americans. The best way to provide this, they say, is broadening Medicare, which is successful, cost-effective and popular.
"If every major country on earth can guarantee health care to all and achieve better health outcomes, while spending substantially less per capita than we do, it is absurd for anyone to suggest that the United States of America cannot do the same," Sanders wrote in a CNN op-ed in August.
Sanders argues that the current health care system benefits mainly Wall Street, insurance companies and the pharmaceutical industry, but leaves people skimping to afford their medication or falling into bankruptcy because of large bills. He points to multiple polls that show Americans support a move toward a Medicare for all, single payer system.
About 28 million people are uninsured and millions more are underinsured so they still have huge health care bills.