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Elizabeth Warren Says Medicare For All Will Not Raise Taxes On Middle Class


Democratic Senator Elizabeth Warren this morning released her long-awaited plan to pay for "Medicare for All." She has been facing questions on the campaign trail for months now about whether she could fund a single-payer health care system without raising taxes on the middle class. Let's bring in NPR political correspondent Asma Khalid, who has the details of the plan. She joins us from - where else? - Des Moines, Iowa.

Hi, Asma.

ASMA KHALID, BYLINE: Good morning.

GREENE: So I guess this is the million-dollar question a lot of people have been asking. Is Warren going to raise middle-class taxes as part of this?

KHALID: And, David, her plan insists that she will not do that. She will not raise a penny, she says, on middle-class families. You know, here's what she's proposing to pay for. This plan would arguably call for $20.5 trillion in new federal spending. And the way that she intends to pay for all of that includes a sort of variety of sources. One would be an increase to her wealth tax. Instead of billionaires paying 3%, they would pay 6%. She also calls for a new financial transaction tax on stock trades.

And one of the more interesting things is, you know, the money that your employer currently pays to private health insurance companies - they would require a tax on employers so that that money would go to the government instead to pay for health - or for health care coverage from the government. The other interesting thing is that this also includes a cut in - or limited cuts, we should say, to defense spending.

GREENE: OK. So that's her plan to pay for it. What about what is - what she's proposing itself? What would this plan look like?

KHALID: Well, they insist that total health care costs would not go up under this plan and that the plan would essentially provide all of the same coverage that we see in Bernie Sanders' Medicare for All plan that's been laid out in Congress. So the coverage would include dental, medical, eye care - basically, most medical services that you would need. What's interesting is this plan does not specifically outline a transition period. She does acknowledge that any real transition to a Medicare for All system is going to require, you know, some disruption, and that in the weeks ahead, she will outline a transition plan that will deal with this. But this specific plan is purely to answer the pay for question. How are you going to pay for this?

GREENE: OK, so now she's come out with these details. She'll obviously be in places like where you are in Iowa, talking about this to voters. And, I mean, Medicare for All - it's something that has gotten more popular recently. But don't surveys still suggests that once people start digging into what it actually means in the details, it's - it has less support? So, I mean, how will this play with voters?

KHALID: Well, you're right, David - that a majority of people actually do not support the idea of eliminating private insurance. So it's a matter of how you kind of frame or word the survey question. You know, Bernie Sanders has said - and he's been asked about this many times - that, you know, you have to be kind of intellectually honest. He feels that in order to pay for a Medicare for All plan, in his view, it would require raising taxes on middle-class families. So I am very curious whether he ends up joining with some of the more moderate candidates and arguing whether or not he feels that this is realistic. The other question for me, David, to hear from voters is whether or not some of them will be skeptical about this notion of getting something for free. Middle-class families are not going to pay more. Is that a good thing, or are they skeptical of it?

GREENE: NPR political correspondent Asma Khalid on the campaign trail in Des Moines.

Thanks, Asma.

KHALID: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Asma Khalid is a White House correspondent for NPR. She also co-hosts The NPR Politics Podcast.
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