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Biden on the cost of Medicare-for-all

“If you eliminated the entire Pentagon, every single thing — planes, ship, troop, the buildings, everything, satellites — it would pay for a total of four months [of Medicare-for-all].”

— Former vice president Joe Biden

How to cover the cost of Medicare-for-all has dominated the Democratic debates. At an estimated $30 trillion cost over 10 years, the plan, as outlined in a bill by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) that is supported by Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), comes with a hefty price tag.

To illustrate the high cost, Biden said that eliminating the U.S. defense budget would pay for four months of Medicare-for-all. It’s unclear how he did his math, and his campaign did not immediately provide a breakdown.

The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office estimates $7 trillion in defense spending from 2019 to 2028. That’s about one-fifth of the cost of Medicare-for-all over 10 years. It suggests that — all else being equal — defunding the military would cover two years, not four months, of the cost of Medicare-for-all. But with such a sweeping and intricate plan, it’s difficult to devise a solid estimate, and it’s unlikely that defunding the military completely would ever come to pass.

Fact-checking the fourth Democratic debate

Twelve candidates are on stage tonight at Otterbein University in Westerville, Ohio, outside Columbus. The debate, hosted by  CNN and the New York Times, starts at 8 p.m. Eastern; the Fact Checker is writing on the candidates’ claims here.

Fact-checking and analysis from previous debates: June debate | July debate  | September debate