With Detailed Pay-For Plan, Warren Touts Medicare for All as 'Bigger Than the Biggest Tax Cut' in US History

Democratic presidential candidate, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) addresses a crowd outside of the Francis Marion Performing Arts Center October 26, 2019 in Florence, South Carolina. "No middle class tax increases," Warren said of her new proposal to fund Medicare for All, and vowed "$11 trillion in household expenses back in the pockets" of U.S. families. That figure, she said, is "substantially larger than the largest tax cut in American history." (Photo: Sean Rayford/Getty Images)

With Detailed Pay-For Plan, Warren Touts Medicare for All as 'Bigger Than the Biggest Tax Cut' in US History

"If you're not in the top 1%, Wall Street, or a big corporation — congratulations, you don't pay a penny more and you're fully covered."

It won't be a burden. It will be a relief. And for the large majority of those living in the United States--a huge tax break.

"There's a reason the American people support [Medicare for All]. It's because when it comes to the cost of health care, we are in the middle of a full-blown crisis."
--Sen. Elizabeth Warren

Sen. Elizabeth Warren released a 'Paying for Medicare for All' proposal on Friday morning, laying out her detailed approach to financing a federal health care plan that would provide comprehensive coverage to all Americans by demanding the top 1% and corporations take the brunt of the costs while promising "not one penny" more in taxes for working-class and middle-class families.

"No middle class tax increases," Warren said of her plan in a detailed blog post as she vowed to put "$11 trillion in household expenses back in the pockets" of U.S. families. That figure, she said, is "substantially larger than the largest tax cut" in the nation's history.

"When it comes to health care, what's broken is obvious," Warren explained. "A fractured system that allows private interests to profiteer off the health crises of the American people. A system that crushes our families with costs they can't possibly bear, forcing tens of millions to go without coverage or to choose between basic necessities like food, rent, and health--or bankruptcy."

Under pressure to explain how she would pay for Medicare for All, Warren's anticipated release of her plan arrives in the midst of a heated debate within the Democratic primary over the way forward on U.S. healthcare. Having repeatedly said "I'm with Bernie" on Medicare for All--and being a vocal co-sponsor of Sen. Bernie Sanders' legislation in the U.S. Senate--Warren has cut a different line in terms of how she talks about paying for it.

"A key step in winning the public debate over Medicare for All will be explaining what this plan costs--and how to pay for it," Warren said Friday. "This task is made a hundred times harder by powerful health insurance and drug companies that make billions of dollars off the current bloated, inadequate system--and would be perfectly happy to leave things exactly the way they are."

According to the basic layout put out by her campaign, Warren's vision for Medicare for All--which her campaign estimate would cost under $52 trillion over ten years, notably less than the status quo for-profit system--includes:

  • Every person in America--all 331 million people--will have full health coverage, and coverage for long-term care
  • Everybody gets the doctors and the treatments they need, when they need them. No more restrictive provider networks, no more insurance companies denying coverage for prescribed treatments, and no more going broke over medical bills
  • The $11 trillion in household insurance and out-of-pocket expenses projected under our current system goes right back into the pockets of America's working people. And we make up the difference with targeted spending cuts, new taxes on giant corporations and the richest 1% of Americans, and by cracking down on tax evasion and fraud. Not one penny in middle-class tax increases.

As summarized by CNN, Warren would pay for her plan in the following ways:

  • Employer contributions: Instead of paying premiums to insurers, companies would send an estimated $8.8 trillion over 10 years to the federal government as an "Employer Medicare Contribution."
  • Taxes on the wealthy: Billionaires would be subject to a new tax of three cents on the dollar on net worth above $1 billion. This is in addition to the wealth tax she announced earlier this year, which would also place a 3 percentage point levy on billionaires. Also, the wealthiest 1% would be taxed on capital gains income annually, rather than at the time of sale, and the capital gains rate would be raised to match income tax rates. Combined, this would raise $3 trillion.
  • Reducing tax evasion: Warren argues that she can collect $2.3 trillion by empowering the Internal Revenue Service to crack down on tax evasion and fraud, redirecting the agency's focus to high-income earners.
  • Levies on financial sector and large corporations: Warren would impose a financial transaction tax of .01% on the sale of stocks, bonds and derivatives. She would also make several significant changes to corporate tax law. All together, these would generate $3.8 trillion.
  • Taxing additional take-home pay: Since employees would no longer have to pay their share of health care premiums, their take-home pay would go up. This would raise $1.4 trillion.

Dying healthcare activist Ady Barkan--who has interviewed all the leading Democratic candidates save for Joe Biden, who has refused the invitation, on their healthcare ideas--praised Warren's detailed "pay-for" plan as a "massive win for the Medicare-for-all movement" that has been led by Sanders in recent years.

In an op-ed for The Intercept posted Friday morning praising the plan, as well as Warren's "public policy jujitsu," Barkan writes:

Her plan doesn't raise taxes on working families. Lately, debate moderators have been salivating at the idea of getting Warren to admit that her plan will be paid for by creating a new employer-side tax. (Bernie has already said as much -- because he's a no-bullshit, courageous guy, and everyone has been assuming that it would be necessary.) And her debate-stage admission would then be the subject of a billion dollars in Republican advertisements. This was the trap that was being set for Warren, according smart observers like Paul Krugman and Zach Carter, and it could have disastrous political consequences. (They even had me worried. Honestly.)

But then Warren did what she does best: her fucking homework. She consulted the experts, she double-checked the numbers, and she dropped a codex of wisdom right in the middle of the teacher's desk. And the political reverberations may be felt for decades.

Just imagine what will happen when the debate moderators ask her next time how she'll pay for her plan. She can answer honestly and with authority that Medicare for All will mean zero health care costs and no increases in taxes for all but the wealthiest Americans.

In her statement on Friday, Warren said there is "a reason former President Barack Obama has called Medicare for All a good idea. There's a reason the American people support it. It's because when it comes to the cost of health care, we are in the middle of a full-blown crisis."

In the U.S., Warren continued, "we are paying twice as much as any other major nation for care--even as tens of millions lack coverage, and even as family after family sees its finances destroyed by a health issue. And the American people know that in the long-term, a simple system that covers everybody, provides the care they need when they need it, puts $11 trillion back in their pockets and uses all of the public's leverage to keep costs as low as possible is the best option for their family budgets and for the health of their loved ones.

And if elected as president, she concluded, "I'll fight to get it done."

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