Yesterday, Sen. Elizabeth Warren released a detailed plan for financing a single-payer Medicare for All health care system. In terms of overall system costs, Sen. Warren’s plan represents a reasonable but likely conservative estimate of the savings possible from a single-payer system over a decade. In addition to the savings Warren identifies, single payer could generate even larger administrative savings by implementing global budgets to fund hospitals (as in Canada), rather than adopting Medicare’s overly complex hospital payment mechanism.
On the financing side, Sen. Warren’s proposal would combine public funds that currently pay for two-thirds of all health expenditures with new and reinstated taxes on corporations and the very wealthy, along with a mechanism for continued employer contributions to the health system.
PNHP welcomes Sen. Warren’s plan as yet another path towards financing a universal and just health system, along with Sen. Bernie Sanders’ menu of financing options that accompanied his single-payer bill in the Senate and the proposed package of taxes included in Prof. Robert Pollin’s 2018 economic analysis of Medicare for All. Together, these plans demonstrate that financing Medicare for All is not a question of if, but a question of how and when.
To those who defend today’s broken health system I ask, “How do you propose we pay for it?” For millions of under-insured Americans facing serious illness, their financing options far too often involve draining their life savings, selling their homes, launching GoFundMe campaigns, or simply going without needed health care — and hoping for the best.
Sen. Warren’s proposal is a powerful reminder that in the richest nation on Earth, the money for Medicare for All is already there — we’re just not spending it on health care.
Adam Gaffney, M.D., M.P.H. is president of Physicians for a National Health Program (www.pnhp.org) is a nonprofit research and education organization whose more than 23,000 members support single-payer national health insurance. Dr. Gaffney is an instructor at Harvard Medical School and a pulmonary and critical care specialist in Boston.