Finally, we got a view of the cost of Medicare for All plan for health care for all of us. It was so interesting that Saturday Night Live featured it on T.V. With the remarkably versatile Kate McKinnon at the helm, this weekend’s “Saturday Night Live” cold open took aim at Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s $52 trillion “Medicare-for-all” health care plan.
“I am in my natural habitat – a public school on a weekend,” McKinnon’s excitable Warren quipped at an Iowa town hall, complete with fist pumps, some “whoos” and the senator’s signature raspy voice.
She also took a moment to give former Rep. Beto O’Rourke a sendoff after he dropped out of the race last week.
“Let me know how my dust tastes,” she said.
After mentioning that she pays taxes in every state “out of principle,” she took questions from cast members playing ambivalent voters.
Asked why it took her so long to release her health care plan, McKinnon’s Warren answered, “When Bernie [Sanders] was talking ‘Medicare-for-all’, everybody was like, ‘Oh cool,’ and then they turned to me and said, ‘Fix it, Mom.’”
She added that her plan “compares favorably” to former Vice President Joe Biden’s “in that it exists.”
“No one asks how we’re going to pay for ‘Remember Obama,” she said, referring to Biden’s tendency to frequently cozy up to the former president.
She then answered a question about estimates of how much her plan would cost.
“We’re talking trillions,” she answered. “When the numbers are this big they’re just pretending.”
Warren has surged in polls recently as Biden has faded and is in the lead in a new Iowa poll.
Democratic presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren’s long-awaited “Medicare-for-all” funding plan projects the government-run health care system would cost a staggering sum of “just under $52 trillion” over the next decade, with the campaign proposing a host of new tax increases to pay for it while still claiming the middle class would not face any additional burden.
“We don’t need to raise taxes on the middle class by one penny to finance Medicare for All,” Sen. Warren, D-Mass., said in her plan — a copy of which was obtained by Fox News in advance of its release Friday.
In a tweet posted after this report was first published, Warren reiterated that pledge while asserting she can return $11 trillion to American families.
Today, I’m releasing my plan to pay for #MedicareForAll. Here’s the headline: My plan won’t raise taxes one penny on middle-class families. In fact, we’ll return about $11 TRILLION to the American people. That’s bigger than the biggest tax cut in our history. Here’s how:
Some of Warren’s rivals for the nomination are unlikely to buy that claim, after having repeatedly challenged her assertions that the middle class would not be hit by tax hikes and suggested she has not been upfront with voters.
Indeed, the Joe Biden campaign said the “unrealistic plan” would leave only two options: “even further increase taxes on the middle class or break her commitment to these promised benefits.”
“The mathematical gymnastics in this plan are all geared towards hiding a simple truth from voters: it’s impossible to pay for Medicare for All without middle-class tax increases,” Deputy Campaign Manager Kate Bedingfield said in a statement.
The Warren campaign’s detailed Medicare-for-all proposal, however, insists that the costs can be covered by a combination of existing federal and state spending on Medicare and other health care — as well as myriad taxes on employers, financial transactions, the ultra-wealthy and large corporations and some savings elsewhere. Those measures are meant to pay for a projected $20.5 trillion in new federal spending. Notably, they include what is essentially a payroll tax increase on employers, something economists generally say can hit workers in the form of reduced wages.
Like Medicare-for-all’s chief Senate champion, fellow candidate Bernie Sanders, the Warren campaign argues that many of these costs already are being spent in the existing health care system by governments, employers and individuals in the form of premiums, deductibles, and other expenses.
However, unlike Sanders’ plan, Warren’s projects no new tax burden for the middle class. The Warren campaign claims those $11 trillion in individual costs would drop to “practically zero,” while the plan maintains and boosts a funding pipeline from other sources. The plan also carries a total price tag of “just under $52 trillion” over the next 10 years, or slightly less than cost projections for the current system. That factors in current and additional spending; new spending alone would be in the $20 trillion range, compared with roughly $32 trillion for Sanders’ plan.
So how would she pay for it?
Among other proposals, Warren calls for bringing in nearly $9 trillion in new Medicare taxes on employers over the next 10 years, arguing this would essentially replace what they’re already paying for employee health insurance. Further, Warren’s campaign says if they are at risk of falling short of the revenue target, they could impose a “Supplemental Employer Medicare Contribution” for big companies with “extremely high executive compensation and stock buyback rates.”
Whether some of those costs, however, still could be passed on to middle-class employees – as economists argue payroll tax costs often are – remains to be seen. As the Tax Policy Center has noted, it is assumed the “employee bears the burden of both the employer and employee portions of payroll taxes.”
Bedingfield pointed to that component in alleging the plan “would place a new tax of nearly $9 trillion that will fall on American workers.”
Warren also proposes even more taxes on the ultra-rich, expanding on her previously announced signature wealth tax, to tax more of anyone’s net worth over $1 billion (estimated to raise another $1 trillion). Warren also calls for raising capital gains tax rates for the wealthy, taxing more foreign earnings and imposing a tax on financial transactions to generate $800 billion in revenue.
Aside from those and other taxes, the campaign claims they can scrounge up $2.3 trillion with better tax enforcement and policies, as well as additional funds by reining in defense spending.
“When fully implemented, my approach to Medicare for All would mark one of the greatest federal expansions of middle-class wealth in our history,” Warren said in her plan. “And if Medicare for All can be financed without any new taxes on the middle class, and instead by asking giant corporations, the wealthy, and the well-connected to pay their fair share, that’s exactly what we should do.”
Warren has been teasing this plan for weeks, especially after some of her rivals hammered her campaign on the financing issue during the last primary debate.
“Your signature, senator, is to have a plan for everything except this,” South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg memorably said during last month’s Democratic primary debate.
“No plan has been laid out to explain how a multitrillion-dollar hole in this Medicare-for-all plan that Senator Warren is putting forward is supposed to get filled in,” he charged.
Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., also slammed Warren during that debate, saying “at least Bernie’s being honest here in saying how he’s going to pay for this and that taxes will go up. And I’m sorry, Elizabeth, but you have not said that and I think we owe it to the American people to tell them where we’re going to send the invoice.”
Sanders has openly said taxes will increase “for virtually everybody” but argued the system will ultimately cost less than what workers currently pay for premiums and other expenses.
The Warren campaign’s insistence that the middle class will be spared any such costs is likely to face sustained skepticism in the Democratic primary field.
Buttigieg reprised his criticism this week, telling Fox News that his concern about Warren’s plan “is not just the multi-trillion-dollar hole, but also the fact that most Americans would prefer not to be told that they have to abandon their private plan.”
Trump campaign communications director Tim Murtaugh also blasted Warren’s plan Friday as a “total disaster.”
“There are 52 trillion reasons why this plan is a total disaster,” Murtaugh told Fox News. “Best of luck to the fact-checkers who now have to clean up the mess.”
One Emory University health care expert recently told The Washington Post “there’s no question” a Medicare-for-all plan “hits the middle class” in some way. A new study released by the bipartisan Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget also noted it would be “impossible” to finance any such plan using only taxes on the wealthiest Americans.
Aside from the cost issues, Warren did appear to acknowledge this week that Medicare-for-all could result in substantial job losses, calling it “part of the cost issue” when confronted with an estimate that nearly 2 million jobs could be shed.
During that same interview with New Hampshire Public Radio, Warren vowed that she would “not sign any legislation into law for which costs for middle-class families do not go down.”
UPDATE 6-Democrat Warren: Medicare for All would not raise U.S. middle-class taxes ‘one penny’
As we just heard and Reuters published a report noted, Democratic U.S. presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren on Friday proposed a $20.5 trillion Medicare for All plan that she said would not require raising middle-class taxes “one penny,” answering critics who had attacked her for failing to explain how she would pay for the sweeping healthcare system overhaul.
Warren said her plan would save American households $11 trillion in out-of-pocket healthcare spending over the next decade while imposing significant new taxes on corporations and the wealthy to help finance it.
“Healthcare is a human right, and we need a system that reflects our values,” Warren wrote in a 20-page essay outlining her plan. “That system is Medicare for All.”
The proposal to remake the U.S. healthcare system will face scrutiny from Warren’s more moderate Democratic opponents, who have questioned Medicare for All’s practicality.
Warren’s proposal also calls for cuts in defense spending and passing immigration reform to increase tax revenue from newly legal Americans, two steps that would face an uphill battle in Congress. The $20.5 trillion in new spending over 10 years would increase the entire federal budget by a third.
Warren, a U.S. senator from Massachusetts, is one of 17 Democrats vying for the party’s nomination to take on Republican President Donald Trump in the November 2020 election. She is near the front of the pack in opinion polls, having closed in on former Vice President Joe Biden, the early front-runner.
Medicare for All would replace private health insurance, including employer-sponsored plans, with full government-sponsored coverage, and individuals would no longer have to pay premiums, deductibles, co-pays or other out-of-pocket costs.
It would extend Medicare, the U.S. government’s health insurance program for people 65 years and older and the disabled, to cover all Americans, including the roughly 27.5 million – 8.5% of the population – who are currently uninsured.
Warren, a former law professor, has become known for a bevy of detailed policy proposals. But she had faced criticism for not detailing how she would pay for a Medicare for All plan she backs, which was introduced in the Senate by rival Democratic candidate Bernie Sanders of Vermont.
At recent debates, Warren had refused to answer directly when asked whether she would be forced to raise middle-class taxes to cover the costs, even as Sanders acknowledged he would.
More moderate 2020 candidates such as Biden and South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg have said Medicare for All would be too disruptive and favor a more incremental approach.
On Friday, Biden’s campaign questioned Warren’s calculations, calling them “double talk” and “mathematical gymnastics” and asserting that middle-class taxes would rise despite her vow.
“It’s impossible to pay for Medicare for All without middle-class tax increases,” said Kate Bedingfield, Biden’s deputy campaign manager. “To accomplish this sleight of hand, her proposal dramatically understates its cost, overstates its savings, inflates the revenue, and pretends that an employer payroll tax increase is something else.”
Warren, speaking to reporters in Iowa on Friday, said she was “just not sure where he (Biden) is going,” adding that her proposal and its costs were authenticated by outside experts.
“Democrats are not going to win by repeating Republican talking points and by dusting off the points of view of the giant drug companies and the giant insurance companies,” Warren said.
House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi also questioned the feasibility of enacting Medicare for All, saying in an interview with Bloomberg on Friday that Democrats should focus on expanding the Affordable Care Act, commonly known as Obamacare.
Critics like Warren note that the current U.S. healthcare system – a patchwork of private insurance often provided by employers or obtained through Obamacare marketplaces and public programs covering the poor, elderly and disabled – is the most costly in the world despite leaving tens of millions uncovered.
Medicare for All legislation stands little chance of passing Congress, where Democrats control the House and Republicans control the Senate.
The plan relies on aggressive ways of lowering healthcare costs, including major cuts in prescription drug prices and significant reductions in administrative costs by eliminating private insurers.
“She makes some assumptions about how effectively healthcare costs could be contained that may not pan out,” said Larry Levitt, a health policy expert at the Kaiser Family Foundation.
Employers would be asked to repurpose the money they currently spend on workers’ healthcare into Medicare contributions, while billionaires, high-earning investors, and corporations would face trillions of dollars in higher taxes.
In an effort to appease union leaders, some of whom have expressed skepticism about giving up hard-fought healthcare plans, Warren said employers that already offer benefits under a collective bargaining agreement could reduce their contributions if they pass the savings along to workers.
Warren released two letters supporting her calculations from several experts, including Simon Johnson, the former chief economist for the International Monetary Fund; Donald Berwick, who oversaw Medicare in the Obama administration; and Mark Zandi, the chief economist at Moody’s Analytics.
An online calculator launched by Warren’s campaign showed an average family of four with employer-provided insurance would save $12,378 per year.
Warren said with her Medicare for All plan in place, projected total healthcare costs in the United States over 10 years would be just under $52 trillion – slightly less than maintaining the current system.
Here’s How Warren Finds $20.5 Trillion To Pay For ‘Medicare For All’
Danielle Kurtslenben reported that Sen. Elizabeth Warren says paying for “Medicare for All” would require $20.5 trillion in new federal spending over a decade. That spending includes higher taxes on the wealthy but no new taxes on the middle class.
The Democratic presidential candidate released her plan to pay for Medicare for All on Friday after being dogged for months by questions of how she would finance such a sweeping overhaul of the health care system. That pressure has been intensified by the fact that Warren has made detailed proposals a central part of her brand as a candidate.
Medicare for All is a single-payer health care proposal introduced by Sen. Bernie Sanders and co-sponsored by multiple candidates in the presidential race, including Warren. It would virtually eliminate private insurance, including employer-sponsored coverage.
It also represents a political risk, as multiple polls show that introducing a public option for health insurance coverage is more popular than a Medicare for All plan that almost entirely does away with private insurance.
Here’s a look at what Warren has laid out to provide single-payer health care, including proposals to cut costs, where new revenue would come from, where funds would not be taken from and what comes next.
How Warren wants to reduce spending
Warren bases her plan off of a recent analysis from the Urban Institute, which estimated that under current law, Americans would spend $52 trillion over the next decade on health care — that includes many types of spending, from employers, individuals and all levels of government.
In that analysis, the Urban Institute calculated that under a single-payer plan that looks a lot like Medicare for All, costs would total not $52 trillion but $59 trillion over a decade, which would require $34 trillion in new federal spending.
Warren’s plan estimates that total health costs could be held to $52 trillion and that $20.5 trillion in new federal spending would be necessary.
Like Urban, Warren’s plan assumes that Medicare for All would pay doctors what Medicare pays them right now. It would also pay hospitals 110 percent of what Medicare pays right now — slightly less than Urban’s 115 percent assumption.
This question — what to pay hospitals and doctors — is a big part of what determines how much Medicare for All would cost. That’s because Medicare pays doctors and hospitals much less than private insurance.
“This plan aggressively constrains the price of health care, paying doctors, hospitals and drug companies much less,” said Larry Levitt, executive vice president for health policy at the Kaiser Family Foundation. “There would be a lot of adjustment required from hospitals and doctors as their incomes go down.” ( And I will say more about this at the end of this blog post).
Just how seismic such a shift would be would depend in part on how fast the transition is, he added.
“I think how quickly she proposes to transition to this new system will be really important because it would be very disruptive to the health care system,” Levitt said. “You know, a quick transition would be hard and potentially result in shortages or increased wait times for health care.”
Sanders calls for a four-year transition to Medicare for All — a pace that Levitt characterized as “quite quick.” In a Friday blog post spelling out her proposal, Warren said she plans to unveil her transition plan “in the weeks ahead.”
A letter from economists supporting the plan, provided by Warren’s team, argued that these payment rates would work in part because doctors and hospitals would save substantially on administrative costs. Warren’s team also says there would be ways to ensure that vulnerable hospitals, like those in rural areas, would get paid more, so they could stay in business.
Her proposal also establishes savings by projecting that Medicare for All could substantially slow medical cost growth. Warren also stipulates that state and local governments would redirect the more than $6 trillion they currently spend on Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) to the federal government.
Where the money would not come from
One thing that’s notable about this plan is where the revenue doesn’t come from. Warren had promised at a recent debate that she would not sign a bill that raises health care costs for the middle class.
This plan goes further: Middle-class Americans would no longer pay health premiums or copays and would also not pay new taxes to replace those costs. They would, however, pay taxes on whatever additional take-home pay they would receive from this plan. That would add $1.4 trillion in revenue, her team estimates.
This is a departure from Bernie Sanders’ ideas about how to fund Medicare for All. One of his options is a 4% tax on families earning more than $29,000. At the Democrats’ October debate, he explained that taxes would go up for many Americans under his plan.
“At the end of the day, the overwhelming majority of people will save money on their health care bills. But I do think it is appropriate to acknowledge that taxes will go up,” he said. “They’re going to go up significantly for the wealthy. And for virtually everybody, the tax increase they pay will be substantially less — substantially less than what they were paying for premiums and out-of-pocket expenses.”
Where the $20.5 trillion comes from
Employers are one of the main sources of revenue in this proposal. Warren says she would raise nearly $9 trillion here, a figure that comes from the roughly $9 trillion private employers are projected to spend over the next decade on health insurance. The idea here is that instead of contributing to employees’ health insurance, employers would pay virtually all of that money to the government.
In addition, she will boost her proposed 3% wealth tax on people with over a billion dollars to 6% and also boost taxes on large corporations. Altogether, she believes, taxes on the rich and on corporations would raise an estimated $6 trillion. An additional $2.3 trillion would come from improving tax enforcement.
But there are lingering questions about how much revenue some of these taxes would bring in or how easy it would be to impose a wealth tax in particular.
“Something like half of the wealth of the wealthiest people in America is held in privately held corporations, privately held businesses,” said Howard Gleckman, a senior fellow at the Urban-Brookings Tax Policy Center. “And it’s really hard to value those assets for tax purposes.”
Warren also includes comprehensive immigration reform as part of her plan. Giving more people a path to citizenship would mean more taxpayers, which would mean more tax revenue.
While Medicare for All is Sanders’ plan, his bill does not include set methods to pay for the plan. Rather, Sanders has included “options” to pay for his health care plan. In a recent interview with CNBC, he said “we’ll have that debate” over how exactly to finance the plan.
As the candidate with “a plan for that,” as one of her slogans goes, Warren has been asked repeatedly whether her health care overhaul plan would raise taxes on the middle class. Warren repeatedly said in response that she would not raise costs for the middle class.
This proposal gives Warren an answer for the next time she is asked how she would pay for Medicare for All, and it means she can say that she wouldn’t impose new taxes on middle-class Americans.
But it also gives her opponents potential new fodder for attacks. Former Vice President Joe Biden has already come out swinging, accusing Warren of fuzzy math. In addition, his team argues that that nearly $9 trillion that employers would pay the government would ultimately hurt workers.
“To accomplish this sleight of hand, her proposal dramatically understates its cost, overstates its savings, inflates the revenue, and pretends that an employer payroll tax increase is something else,” said Biden deputy campaign manager Kate Bedingfield in a statement released Friday.
In fact, another study by a number of economists estimates the true cost of almost $70 trillion over a decade. Wow, what a spending plan and what is our national debt now? About $21 trillion and now we are going to add more and more. When does it end? And remember all the doctors and hospitals, especially rural hospitals, will be paid based on the discounted rates of Medicare. How do doctors then pay for the education debts, their overhead expenses, and their malpractice insurance fees? Interesting! Who then will be taking care of our patients?
Again I ask, where is Obamacare when we need it and how do we pay for it in the future?