US election 2020: Elizabeth Warren sets out health funding plan

Democratic presidential candidate, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) addresses a crowd outside of the Francis Marion Performing Arts Center October 26, 2019

US presidential hopeful Elizabeth Warren has offered details on funding for her healthcare plan, which is expected to cost the federal government $20.5tn (£15.8tn) over 10 years.

She said “Medicare for All” would not raise taxes “one penny” for ordinary Americans, but would largely be paid for by businesses and the wealthy.

Ms Warren is a Democratic front-runner in the 2020 race to the White House.

But she has faced criticism over lack of detail about her Medicare plan.

What does her plan say?

Ms Warren, who moved clear of her key rival Joe Biden in a poll in the early-voting state of Iowa on Friday, said her plan would not spend “any more money overall than we spend now”. But she said the share spent by the federal government would increase to $20.5tn.

Her plan would mandate that employers pay the government the same amount that they currently contribute for private health insurance for their staff.

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According to her campaign, the current US health system will cost $52tn over the next decade. Economists have estimated the cost of Medicare for All at $13.5tn to $34tn in the same timeframe.

“The $11tn in household insurance and out-of-pocket expenses projected under our current system goes right back into the pockets of America’s working people,” her plan states.

“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.”

Members of National Nurses United union members wave "Medicare for All" signs during a rally in front of the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America in Washington calling for "Medicare for All" in April 2019Image copyrightGETTY IMAGES

Ms Warren said she would:

  • raise her previously proposed wealth tax on billionaires from 3% to 6%
  • increase corporate taxes
  • tax transactions such as stock trades
  • raise revenue through immigration reform – by turning undocumented migrants into legal, taxpaying workers

“Healthcare in America is world-class,” the Massachusetts senator wrote in her proposal. “Medicare for All isn’t about changing any of that. It’s about fixing what is broken – how we pay for that care.”

What is ‘Medicare for All’?

First proposed by Ms Warren’s fellow liberal senator, Bernie Sanders, it is a measure to expand the federally run health programme for the elderly and disabled, Medicare, into a single-payer health system.

The federal government would become the sole insurance provider for all essential and preventative healthcare.

Under Ms Warren’s plan, the private health insurance that more than half of Americans now receive through their employers would be replaced by free federal medical coverage for everyone.

According to her campaign, the array of often puzzling medical bills currently faced by US patients – such as premiums, deductibles, co-pays and other out-of-pocket expenses – would be abolished.

Several more moderate Democratic candidates – including another front-runner, Joe Biden – favour adding the option of government-run medical insurance for all Americans while allowing those who wish to to keep their private medical coverage.

It is not a universal healthcare system under which the government would own and operate hospitals – instead, the government would pay private providers an agreed-upon rate for their services.

Unlike Ms Warren, Mr Sanders has said his plan to pay for Medicare for all would require an increase in taxes on the middle class, without offering specifics.