‘Warren is trying to thread a very tricky political needle here…’
(Liberty Headlines) Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., has already begun to scale back her expansive plans to socialize the entire U.S. healthcare system.
She announced Friday that she would expand public health insurance during her first 100 days in office, but wouldn’t push for passage of a “Medicare for All” program until the third year of her presidency, a timeline that acknowledges how tough it will be to shift to a system of government-run health care.
Warren’s plan, projected to cost an estimated $20.5 trillion, would be funded through a combination of soaking the rich, enhancing IRS enforcement of tax code and forcing employers to redirect the money currently allotted for private healthcare into government coffers.
Other revenue-increasing ideas she has proposed include allowing more immigration, which she claims, without evidence, would drive the economy, even though many of those unskilled immigrants would be drawing from—rather than adding into—the healthcare pot.
The leading Democratic primary contender said she would work with Congress to pass pieces of a universal coverage proposal more gradually, with the whole thing being ready “no later than” her third year in office.
Yet, winning congressional approval would be a heavy lift, no matter which party holds majorities in the House and Senate.
“Every serious proposal for Medicare for All contemplates a significant transition period,” Warren wrote in an online post.
“My plan will be completed in my first term,” she said. “It includes dramatic actions to lower drug prices, a Medicare for All option available to everyone that is more generous than any plan proposed by any other presidential candidate, critical health system reforms to save money and save lives, and a full transition to Medicare for All.”
Even as she continued to praise Medicare for All, though, Friday’s announcement represented a degree of backpedaling on the issue before the Democratic primary—which begins Feb. 3 in Iowa.
Warren was mocked by other candidates in recent debates and criticized for making lofty promises while failing to provide the nuts-and-bolts figures. After doing so, however, many remained skeptical.
“Warren is trying to thread a very tricky political needle here,” said Larry Levitt of the nonpartisan Kaiser Family Foundation. “Warren clearly still supports Medicare for All, but she is not putting all of her eggs in that basket.”
Warren had previously said she would offer more details on how to implement her health care policy, but she laid out for the first time exactly how it will take up to three years.
The senator also said that, rather than starting by shepherding Medicare for All through a divided Congress as a first priority, she’d first work to pass “anti-corruption” measures meant to curb the influence of lobbyists, insurance and pharmaceutical companies.
It comes two weeks after Warren unveiled her much-scrutinized plan to pay for Medicare for All, which experts criticized for underestimating how much universal health care would really cost.
They say Warren’s plan may scare general election moderates and swing voters who aren’t ready to fully scrap private insurance, and instead have called for expanding existing programs to cover more people who currently don’t have health insurance—something Warren’s proposal shows her embracing more of as she moves toward Medicare for All.
Kate Bedingfield, a Biden deputy campaign manager, accused Warren of offering “a full program of flips and twists.”
“Sen. Warren is now trying to muddy the waters even further,” Bedingfield said in a statement, adding that the latest proposal would “delay the introduction of her full Medicare for All proposals as far as three years into her term, after the midterms—a move that doesn’t exactly address the urgency of now.”
Buttigieg spokeswoman Lis Smith called it “a transparently political attempt to paper over a very serious policy problem, which is that she wants to force 150 million people off their private insurance—whether they like it or not.”
Taking years to get to Medicare for All would give Warren time to convince people happy with their current, private insurance to accept a fully government-funded system. But Friday’s announcement seems sure to raise more tough questions about health care for a candidate who has been struggling with it lately—following her riding improved polling throughout the summer to become one of the front runners in the crowded Democratic primary field.
Warren previously offered details on financing Medicare for All after ducking questions about whether middle class tax increases would be needed during the last two debates. Now, word that fully implementing that plan will move slowly could unsettle progressive Democrats.
The stakes are high since Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders wrote the original Medicare for All bill and has made it his signature issue. Still, Warren is essentially acknowledging the high degree of political difficulty that would be involved to pass Medicare for All — and the relatively low chances of success given that interest groups including employers, hospitals, drug companies and insurers will be arrayed against it.
She is also recognizing that incremental measures that progressives often dismiss as not going far enough could have a real impact on people’s lives. That view was reinforced by a recent study by the Urban Institute and Commonwealth Fund policy centers, which concluded that Democrats have more than one way to get to coverage for all.
“Warren’s proposals to shore up the Affordable Care Act, lower drug prices, and create a public option would still provide substantial health care cost relief for people,” said the Kaiser Foundation’s Levitt.
Adapted from reporting by the Associated Press