Elizabeth Warren Presents Her Plan to Pay for M4A

Elizabeth Warren is finally out with her detailed Medicare For All Plan. It is, as near as I can tell, the most complete plan in the known world, paying literally 100 percent of all health care expenses. That means medical, dental, vision, and mental; and it means no premiums, no copays, and no deductibles. No country in the world does this, so we’d be top dogs for sure if something like this passed.

And now for the nitty gritty. At great cost to my sanity, I have created a spreadsheet laying out the costs and payments for Warren’s plan. Some are taken directly from her white paper while others are estimates based on current costs and some slightly vague statements on Warren’s part. All of them are 10-year costs. Here it is:

As you can see, it doesn’t add up, but I can’t quite tell if that’s my fault or hers. You see, Warren says that she’s going to return all the copays and deductibles we currently pay back to us. That’s an $11 trillion hit. But nowhere does she specifically account for how she’ll make up that money in other funding:

I asked top experts — Mark Zandi, the Chief Economist of Moody’s Analytics; Betsey Stevenson, the former Chief Economist for the Obama Labor Department; and Simon Johnson — to examine options for how we can make up that $11 trillion difference. They conclude that it can be done largely with new taxes on financial firms, giant corporations, and the top 1% – and making sure the rich stop evading the taxes we already have.

Sure enough, those taxes are there, but if you apply them to the $11 trillion you can’t also apply them to the rest of the $39 trillion that needs to be paid for. So it looks to me like, one way or another, Warren is short by about $8 trillion.

But I might have a few numbers wrong or miscalculated here, so I’ll wait a bit to see if someone else produces a more detailed accounting. In the meantime, I’ll note that $8 trillion amounts to about $600 billion in the first year of operation, which is not insurmountable. I also note that there’s no line item for recouping current spending on Obamacare, which amounts to about $1 trillion over ten years.

In other words: don’t take this too seriously yet. This is the best I could do with the document Warren posted, but I might have some line items wrong. Alternatively, Warren might have some line items wrong. Everyone stay cool for a while until it’s all worked out.

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It’s really that simple. But if you’d like to read a bit more, our membership lead, Brian Hiatt, has a post for you highlighting some of our newsroom's impressive, impactful work of late—including two big investigations in just one day and covering voting rights the way it needs to be done—that we hope you’ll agree is worth supporting.

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