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Elizabeth Warren’s proposal for Medicare for All

November 1, 2019

Topics: Quote of the Day

By Elizabeth Warren
Medium, November 1, 2019

There are two absolute non-negotiables when it comes to health care:

One: No American should ever, ever die or go bankrupt because of health care costs. No more GoFundMe campaigns to pay for care. No more rationing insulin. No more choosing between medicine and groceries.

Two: Every American should be able to see the doctors they need and get their recommended treatments, without having to figure out who is in-network. No for-profit insurance company should be able to stop anyone from seeing the expert or getting the treatment they need.

Health care is a human right, and we need a system that reflects our values. That system is Medicare for All.

The best way to fight misinformation is with facts. That’s why today, I’m filling in the details and releasing a plan that describes how I would implement the long-term policy prescriptions of the Medicare for All Act and how to pay for it.

Under my plan, Medicare for All will cover the full list of benefits outlined in the Medicare for All Act, including long-term care, audio, vision, and dental benefits. My plan will cover every single person in the U.S., and includes common-sense payment reforms that make Medicare for All possible without spending any more money overall than we spend now.

Option 1: Maintain our current system, which will cost the country $52 trillion over ten years. And under that current system –

  • 24 million people won’t have coverage, and millions can’t get long-term care.
  • 63 million have coverage gaps or substandard coverage that could break down if they actually get sick. And millions who have health insurance will end up going broke at least in part from medical costs anyway.
  • Together, the American people will pay $11 trillion of that bill themselves in the form of premiums, deductibles, copays, out-of-network, and other expensive medical equipment and care they pay for out-of-pocket — all while America’s wealthiest individuals and biggest companies pay far less in taxes than in other major countries.

Option 2: Switch to my approach to Medicare for All, which would cost the country just under $52 trillion over ten years. Under this new system –

  • 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.

That’s it. That’s the choice. A broken system that leaves millions behind while costs keep going up and insurance companies keep sucking billions of dollars in profits out of the system — or, for about the same amount of money, a new system that drives down overall health costs and, on average, relieves the typical middle class families of $12,400 in insurance premiums and other related health care costs.

No middle class tax increases. $11 trillion in household expenses back in the pockets of American families. That’s substantially larger than the largest tax cut in American history.

America’s middle class is facing a crisis. For a generation, wages have remained largely flat while family costs have exploded. I’ve spent decades sounding the alarm about it. I’m running for President to fix it. That means doing whatever we can to reduce the overall strain on family budgets.

Medicare for All can be a huge part of the solution. When fully implemented, my approach to Medicare for All would mark one of the greatest federal expansions of middle class wealth in our history. 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.



By Don McCanne, M.D.

Elizabeth Warren’s proposal for Medicare for All is helpful because it shows us that we can provide affordable, comprehensive care for everyone without increasing taxes on the middle class. That is possible because of the efficiency features of the single payer model and because income and wealth inequality have provided a revenue source accessible though equitable tax policies.

Like Bernie Sanders, she is advancing a bona fide single payer model of Medicare for All. That is in sharp contrast with those models that perpetuate the current system, including the ACA exchanges, with the addition of a public option such as a Medicare buy-in. An even sharper contrast is found in the models that would begin to disassemble what programs we do have, shifting more of the costs to the patient even if clearly unaffordable. The status quo/public option models leave major deficiencies in place, whereas the models that merely unravel our system leave the majority worse off.

Providing a 44 page explanation of her Medicare for All proposal certainly gives Elizabeth Warren’s opponents plenty of nits to pick. You can almost hear the sound bites already. What is important is that essentially everyone will be better off except that the wealthy are already receiving all the care they need or want. It is true that they might suffer some angst when they look at what would likely be not much more than a footnote on their personal financial statements, but that seems to be a small price to pay for health care justice for all.

PNHP has a mission to educate colleagues and the public at large on single payer health reform, but the organization does not endorse any candidates for political office.

Stay informed! Visit www.pnhp.org/qotd to sign up for daily email updates.

About the Commentator, Don McCanne

Don McCanne is a retired family practitioner who dedicated the 2nd phase of his career to speaking and writing extensively on single payer and related issues. He served as Physicians for a National Health Program president in 2002 and 2003, then as Senior Health Policy Fellow. For two decades, Don wrote "Quote of the Day", a daily health policy update which inspired HJM.

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