Elizabeth Warren’s single payer health care plan

She has released her plan to provide universal health care coverage through a single payer system that will save ordinary people money by producing savings and charging rich people and corporations to pay for it. Naturally, this has aroused opposition from all those who benefit from the current system (hospitals, doctors, health insurance and drug companies). But it is also being criticized by other Democratic candidates such as Joe Biden, Amy Klobuchar, and Pete Buttigieg, all of whom represent the corporate-friendly Democratic party establishment.

I said from the beginning that president Obama’s Affordable Care Act was carefully designed to protect the interests of the private health insurance industry, and what some key players who promoted it are doing now is illustrative. Ryan Grim reports that Kathleen Sibelius, president Obama’s secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services and who botched the initial rollout of the Affordable Care Act, is now going around trashing the Sanders-Warren plans for Medicare for All because she thinks that the current private Medicare Advantage plans are good. I am sure that it is just a coincidence that she works for a Medicare Advantage company.

Meanwhile, Nancy-Ann DeParle, a deputy chief of staff to Barack Obama and who played a leading role in pushing the Affordable Care Act, has also been trashing Medicare for All. Grim writes that she “is a director at CVS Health and HCA Health Care, and works for a private equity firm that invests in the health care industry.”

It appears that Joe Biden is recruiting Lawrence Summers, Obama’s chief economic advisor, to also trash Medicare for All. He has already shown himself eager and willing to attack Warren’s wealth tax proposals, possibly because Warren was instrumental in blocking Summers from getting the role he had long coveted, chair of the Federal reserve.

The Biden campaign’s suggestion to contact Summers follows an assault Summers made recently on the wealth tax proposed by Warren. Summers is a valuable voice for Biden because he is treated by the press as an elder dispensing wisdom, rather than a spurned rival out to settle scores. CNBC, in reporting his wealth tax criticism, called him “one of the economic pillars of the Democratic establishment.” At a panel hosted by the Peterson Institute, funded by the late billionaire Pete Peterson, a longtime advocate of slashing public spending to the bone, CNBC reported that Summers “lashed out at the idea of a wealth tax, saying it was bad economics, bad policy, and built on bad data.”

Warren was often at odds with the Obama administration over economic policy, and former administration officials are now giving it back to her.

Ady Barkan writes that Warren’s plan builds on the momentum created by Bernie Sanders’ relentless push for Medicare for All

To begin, her plan covers everybody, with zero out-of-pocket expenses. “Medicare for All” is a great brand. So is “Free Healthcare for Everybody.” And that’s the central promise of the Sanders and [Pramila] Jayapal bills, and the Warren proposal as well. You get the doctors and caregivers and treatments you need, for free. That’s it. It is a deeply appealing vision (as evidenced by the enthusiasm that Bernie generates among the working class) that we can use to drive enormous turnout from voters who often stay home out of cynicism about what either party will do for them.

Her plan doesn’t raise taxes on working families. Lately, debate moderators have been salivating at the idea of getting Warren to admit that her plan will be paid for by creating a new employer-side tax. (Bernie has already said as much — because he’s a no-bullshit, courageous guy, and everyone has been assuming that it would be necessary.)

But then Warren did what she does best: her fucking homework. She consulted the experts, she double-checked the numbers, and she dropped a codex of wisdom right in the middle of the teacher’s desk. And the political reverberations may be felt for decades.

Just imagine what will happen when the debate moderators ask her next time how she’ll pay for her plan. She can answer honestly and with authority that Medicare for All will mean zero health care costs and no increases in taxes for all but the wealthiest Americans.

So how does she pay for it? Here is where the brilliance of this plan’s political economy really shines brightest. Warren pays for her plan by targeting the bad actors who are making our health care system so expensive and wasteful and our economy so rigged and unequal.

Historically, single-payer advocates have focused on the human benefits of more and better health care coverage. And rightfully so. That is what matters the most. But we’ve simultaneously shied away from discussing the cost, because the numbers are just so big. And that is why this plan is such a landmark. It turns our perceived weakness into a powerful strength. From now on, when we’re asked how to pay for the program, we can point to the very same corporate interests who are trying to defeat us.

The public radio program On Point on November 5th 2019 had a detailed examination of Warren’s plan and followed it up with a debate between Simon Johnson, former chief economist for the IMF and currently a professor of entrepreneurship at MIT and Mark Pauly, a professor from the Wharton school of business at the University of Pennsylvania. Johnson is a supporter of the Warren plan and he ran rings around Pauly, who seemed to be always whining that Warren’s plan would harm those like him who are well off.

There is momentum for the single payer system plan. But a big danger to it will be from the Biden’s, Buttigiegs, and their ilk who, rather than seizing the moment to join the push for something that will benefit almost everyone, are looking more to their own immediate and narrow interests and seeking to curry favor with business interests by sniping at it.

As a post script, my support for a candidates increases if they make the right kind of enemies. I was pleased that billionaire Jamie Dimon, head of JP Morgan Chase bank, has attacked Warren. Dimon is one of the people who should have been prosecuted for his involvement in the financial collapse but was actually bailed out and rewarded because he was Barack Obama’s favorite banker and then attorney general Eric Holder and his top aides are hand-in-glove with the financial sector.


  1. brucegee1962 says

    The main problem I have with her wealth tax is that it will engender a huge industry for hiding wealth, something that rich people have always been very very good at. All kinds of stuff like buying artwork and having it appraised down, etc.
    Income taxes work because there are all kinds of records when money changes hands. For that reason, I’d be more in favor of a robust and aggressive inheritance tax. Get rid of the second-generation billionaires.

  2. jrkrideau says

    1 brucegee1962
    it will engender ?
    I am glad to hear that this does not exist in the USA at the present time.

    Why not wealth tax & inheritance tax?

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