Tuesday, October 22, 2019

What is Elizabeth Warren cooking up?

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Quick, what's the difference in the way the Des Moines Register and the New York Times quoted Elizabeth Warren's recent I'll-have-a-plan promise?

Des Moines:
"Right now, the cost estimates on Medicare for All vary by trillions and trillions of dollars. And the different revenue streams for how to fund it — there are a lot of them," she said to a crowd of about 475 at Simpson College. "So this is something I’ve been working on for months and months and it’s got just a little more work until it's finished."
New York:
“I plan over the next few weeks to put out a plan that talks about, specifically, the cost of Medicare for all and, specifically, how we pay for it,” she told the crowd at the event, held at Simpson College.
Off goes the guess-what-I'm-thinking buzzer: The Register capitalizes Medicare for All; the Times doesn't.

So what? Well, Medicare for All, capitalized, is Bernie-brand, Medicare for All  Medicare for all, lower case, could mean a lot of things. Medicare as we know it is very different from the transformed public plan in Sanders' bill, which covers every imaginable medical service at zero out-of-pocket cost to enrollees (excepting a small prescription drug deductible).

Some seem to be expecting Warren to come out with a full-blown Elizabeth-Warrantied single payer variant, the variants on what's covered, what out-of-pocket costs (if any) enrollees might be in for, timeline for phasing out employer insurance (or preserving it in some form), etc. etc.  Others assume she's going to take Bernie's simple cover-everything-with-one-payer plan and dive into the weeds of how to pay for it (and how to talk about it -- Gaba has some suggestions on that front).

Recall that in recent months, Warren has not only declared "I'm with Bernie on this," but also explicitly stated that she's happy to adopt other people's good plans on various fronts rather than reinvent for the sake of branding. I think it's pretty clear she's grappling with the financing question and how to explain what she comes up with. I fear, with many, that going all-in on M4A is a political trap, and I suspect that radically transforming the healthcare system won't be Warren's first priority if she's elected -- see her priorities as laid out in this Ezra Klein interview.

So why not stick with her March pose - there are many paths to single payer? Today Paul Krugman suggests she's gone all-in on M4A to avoid being flanked on the left by Bernie. I suspect she genuinely loathes the health insurance industry, considers it purely parasitic, and wants ideological consistency.  We'll see how fully she commits herself to M4A pursuit in coming months.

1 comment:

  1. The challenge for Warren is this:

    Sanders has proposed new taxes for single payer that are utterly inadequate to pay for the program. He has quoted a 7.5% payroll tax for larger firms, a 4% income tax that exempts the poor, and then a host of aspirational taxes on the rich that will never produce the revenue he expects.

    An honest appraisal of the taxes required (and collectable) would lead Sanders or Warren to the same place that Gov Peter Shumlin wound up in Vermont in 2014........an 11% payroll tax, and income taxes that reached 9.5% on affluent residents.

    And then Single Payer would be sunk, along with the Sanders or Warren campaigns.