Criticisms Mount to Warren’s Medicare for All Plan

By Reuters
November 5, 2019 Updated: November 5, 2019

WASHINGTON—U.S. presidential contender Elizabeth Warren’s plan to provide health care for all Americans, which she estimates would cost just under $52 trillion over 10 years, was attacked over the weekend by Republicans and fellow Democrats and parodied on NBC’s “Saturday Night Live,” the long-running television comedy show.

The “Medicare for All” proposal, which Warren’s 2020 presidential campaign released on Nov. 1, calls for cuts in defense spending and passing immigration reform to increase tax revenue from newly legal immigrants, two steps that would face an uphill battle in Congress.

It would also be funded by cost-cutting, business contributions, and new taxes on Wall Street, big businesses, and wealthy individuals, all of which carry their own challenges.

Warren, a U.S. senator from Massachusetts, has emerged as a front-runner along with former Vice President Joe Biden in the race for the Democratic nomination to face Republican President Donald Trump in the November 2020 election.

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 the Medicare for All plan. The proposal was introduced in the U.S. Senate by rival Democratic candidate Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.).

Her health care overhaul 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.

Warren has said it would provide health care coverage for some 27 million Americans who are currently uninsured and that the taxes wouldn’t affect the middle class, while saving American households $11 trillion in out-of-pocket spending over the next decade.

She released letters from experts, including Mark Zandi, the chief economist at Moody’s Analytics, supporting her calculations.

Biden took issue with Warren’s explanation of who would pay for her proposal.

“Her plan would create a new tax on employers of almost $9 trillion that would come out of workers’ pockets, a new financial transaction tax that would impact investments held by middle-class Americans, and a new capital gains tax that would affect far more people than she stated tonight,” Biden said in a statement on Nov. 2.

Another Democratic presidential contender, South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg, said the plan’s elimination of private insurance was too inflexible.

“This my-way-or-the-highway idea, that either you’re for kicking everybody off their private plans in four years or you’re for business as usual, it’s just not true,” Buttigieg said on ABC’s “This Week” on Nov. 3.

Sanders told ABC News his Medicare for All approach “will be much more progressive in terms of protecting the financial well-being of middle income families.” Sanders’ campaign has not yet released a detailed plan explaining how he would fund the proposal.

‘Not Going to Happen’

Rahm Emanuel, who was chief of staff for former Democratic President Barack Obama and previously called Medicare for All a “pipe dream,” said Warren’s campaign would be forever associated with the idea in the future, to its detriment.

“This was Bernie’s idea, and now, she owns the idea,” he said. “This issue is not going to happen, and it is not the way you argue health care.”

On Nov. 3, the Republican National Committee called the price tag of Warren’s approach to health care “staggering” on Twitter.

“Elizabeth Warren’s policies are so radical, the math doesn’t even come close,” Steve Bannon, a former adviser to Trump, said on Fox News on Nov. 3.

Warren’s plan was the focus of a nearly eight-minute-long opening skit on “Saturday Night Live” that was widely circulated on social media afterward.

“When Bernie was talking Medicare for All, everybody was like, ‘Oh cool,’ and then they turned to me and they said, ‘Fix it, Mom,” said Kate McKinnon, who plays Warren on the show. “I’ll do it because that’s what Moms do.”

To fund the plan, “we’re going to cut military spending, so … immediately dead in the water,” the actor said. The plan also requires that the United States tax billionaires like Jeff Bezos and big banks, she added. “All we have to do is convince JPMorgan to operate like a non-profit,” McKinnon said.

Reporting by Heather Timmons