Five Ways Elizabeth Warren Can Pay for Medicare for All

Five Ways Elizabeth Warren Can Pay for Medicare for All

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Thursday, October 24, 2019

Five Ways Elizabeth Warren Could Pay for Medicare for All

Elizabeth Warren has promised to provide details in the next few weeks about how she intends to pay for Medicare for All, and multiple economists and policy experts are rushing to help the Massachusetts senator complete the financing plan, Jeff Stein of The Washington Post reports Thursday.

The Warren team wants to put an end to the “How are you going to pay for it?” question in one fell swoop, Stein says, while producing a plan for a universal public health care system that is “airtight but easy to understand,” as one of Warren’s outside economic advisors put it.

Financing a national health plan that is expected to require more than $30 trillion in new federal spending over 10 years is a challenging task, one made more difficult by Warren’s pledge that she won’t raise overall costs for middle-class families. Warren’s proposed wealth tax won’t provide much help, since she has already announced plans for the roughly $2.75 trillion she says the tax would raise over a decade.

Here are some of the ideas that have been discussed, according to Stein, who notes that none of them have been firmly adopted yet:

  • Use existing funds: Redirecting existing health care spending from Medicare, Medicaid and the Department of Veterans Affairs could provide two-thirds of the required funds.
  • Tax business: A new gross receipts tax on business could raise $600 billion, which represents a savings relative to the $650 billion businesses already spend on employee health care.
  • Tax consumption: A new 3.75% sales tax on “non-necessities” could raise $200 billion, with exemptions for low-income households. The Warren team has also reportedly discussed a “progressive consumption tax,” similar to the value-added-tax used in many European countries, which could raise trillions of dollars, even with exemptions for low-income households.
  • Tax wealth: A 0.38% tax on household wealth above $1 million could raise $200 billion.
  • Don’t call it a tax: One adviser has recommended calling the Medicare-for-All tax a “public premium,” with the funds going to the government rather than a private insurance company. Ideally, “public premiums” would be lower than current private insurance premiums, potentially neutralizing concerns about new taxes.

The bottom line: The question of how to pay for such a massive and ambitious health plan has become one of the most important issues for the Democratic presidential candidates. Warren has built her campaign on having a plan for everything, so she needs one here. But Medicare for All is still very much a longshot and the debate is still mostly academic. “The proposal would amount to the largest transformation of the U.S. health-care system in the country’s history,” Stein writes, “although its chances of passing are unlikely even if Democrats took complete control of the federal government.”

Read Stein’s full report here.

Quote of the Day

“Not renewing subscriptions across all federal agencies will be a significant cost saving—hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars will be saved.”

– White House Press Secretary Stephanie Grisham, in an email to The Wall Street Journal Thursday, regarding White House plans to instruct federal agencies to not renew their subscriptions the The New York Times and The Washington Post. President Trump reportedly told his staff earlier in the week to cancel the White House’s print subscriptions to the newspapers.

It wasn’t immediately clear how many Times and Post subscriptions the federal government has, the Journal’s Andrew Restuccia reported, adding that federal employees are eligible for free digital subscriptions to the Post using their government email addresses. “Canceling the subscriptions could limit officials’ access to vital information that could assist them in doing their jobs,” Restuccia wrote.

Dem Senators Demand Details About Taxpayer Dollars Wasted by Former Secretary Price

Democratic Sens. Elizabeth Warren, Patty Murray and Ron Wyden sent a letter to Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Alex Azar Wednesday asking when the administration will recoup hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars wasted on charter jet flights by former HHS Secretary Tom Price.

Price resigned in September 2017 amid mounting criticism and multiple investigations into his use of private and military jets at taxpayer expense. The 21 trips in question cost about $1.2 million — “an extraordinary sum given that Secretary Price took the flights to and from cities where commercial service was readily available at far less expense,” the senators said in their letter. A July 2018 report by the HHS Office of Inspector General determined that all but one of the trips failed to comply with federal travel requirements. The OIG report also found “that the use of chartered aircraft and identified noncompliance issues resulted in waste of Federal funds totaling at least $341,000.”

The senators wrote that the Office of Inspector General told them that HHS has not yet provided proof of any progress in addressing seven recommendations to prevent such waste from happening again. “American taxpayers deserve full transparency and accountability for former Secretary Price's exorbitant travel habits, and they deserve to be repaid in full,” they said.

The senators asked HHS to tell them how much of the $341,000 in wasted funds have been recouped and whether Price repaid the department for overseas travel by his wife. They gave HHS until November 6 to respond.

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