Sen. Bernie Sanders (I., Vt.) said private health insurance companies would be reduced to covering cosmetic surgery under his vision of a "Medicare for all" program.
Sanders, who is leading the polls among declared 2020 Democratic presidential candidates, spoke to CBS News ahead of his introduction of a path toward universal health care. He shrugged off interviewer Ed O'Keefe pointing out the cost of such a proposal, which some estimates place at $32 trillion over the next decade.
"What our system does is get rid of insurance companies and drug companies making billions of dollars in profit every single year," Sanders said.
"What happens to those insurance companies after your plan is implemented?" O'Keefe asked.
"If you want cosmetic surgery—under Medicare for all, we cover all basic health care need—I suppose if you want to make yourself look a little bit more beautiful, work on that nose or your ears, they can do that," Sanders said.
"So basically BlueCross BlueShield would be reduced to nose jobs," O'Keefe said.
"Something like that, yeah," Sanders said.
O'Keefe was likely picking a health insurance company at random, although the government has partnered with BlueCross to administrate Medicare in numerous states.
Sanders has been more strident than other candidates in declaring the effective end of private health insurance with his government-run vision. Fellow presidential candidate Sen. Kamala Harris (D., Calif.) was forced to walk back her call for the elimination of private insurance earlier this year.