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Warren on the cost of Medicare-for-all

“Giant corporations and billionaires are going to pay more [under Sanders’s Medicare-for-all plan]. Middle class families are going to pay less out of pocket for their health care.”

— Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.)

This isn’t as straightforward as Warren makes it sound.

Sanders has put out a menu of possible options for how to fund Medicare-for-all, though many experts says that he still falls short.

One option would require a 7.5 percent payroll tax that employers would pay to help fund the program. Virtually every economist will tell you that a payroll tax paid by an employer largely comes out of the pay earned by the employee, but Sanders argues that the savings on the premiums currently paid by the employer should result in an overall reduction in costs for the employer. He estimates that a company would save more than $9,000 in health-care costs per average employee. (We do not vouch for these numbers.)

Another option is a 4 percent income-based premium paid by households, starting at $29,000. Sanders has estimated that this would raise $3.5 trillion over 10 years, but the “typical middle-class family” would save more than $4,400 a year. Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), a 2020 rival, has objected that this would amount to a tax increase on the middle class and has proposed to raise the threshold for paying the tax to $100,000. Instead she would impose a new tax on stock and bond trades.

Still, health care amounts to one-sixth of the U.S. economy. And when changing anything that large, there is really only one certainty: There will be unintended consequences. Medicare-for-all would involve disruption in the health-care market much larger than what the United States experienced with the implementation of the Affordable Care Act, Medicaid or the original implementation of Medicare.

Fact-checking the second Democratic debate
Democratic 2020 presidential candidates (L-R) Sen. Michael F. Bennet (Colo.), Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (N.Y.), former HUD Secretary Julian Castro, Sen. Cory Booker (N.J.), former vice president Joe Biden, Sen. Kamala D. Harris (Calif.), entrepreneur Andrew Yang, Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (Hawaii), Washington Gov. Jay Inslee and New York Mayor Bill de Blasio pose together before the start of the second night of the second 2020 presidential Democratic candidates debate in Detroit, Wednesday. (Lucas Jackson/Reuters)

Twenty candidates vying for the Democratic presidential nomination are again taking the stage — 19 who were on the stage during last month’s debate and one, Montana Gov. Steve Bullock, who was seen by debate-watchers for the first time Tuesday. The debate, hosted by CNN, began airing at 8 p.m. Eastern; the Fact Checker is writing on the candidates’ claims here.

Here’s what the Fact Checker found during the first debate.