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When “Saturday Night Live” mocks your health care plan, your plan is in trouble.

Medicare for All is in trouble and that means trouble for Elizabeth Warren.

On "SNL,'' Kate McKinnon played Warren at an Iowa town hall, in a weekend skit that spoofed both Warren’s earnestness — “I’m in my natural habitat, a public school on the weekend” — and the math behind her $20.5 trillion proposal. “When the numbers are this big, they’re just pretend,” quipped McKinnon.

Et tu, SNL?

Of course, being featured in the cold open means Warren’s important enough to be parodied. And, to Warren’s advantage, McKinnon took solid shots at President Trump and former vice president Joe Biden. But the supposedly humorous questions lobbed at McKinnon from a town hall audience of “SNL” cast members echoed the serious questions raised by Warren’s Democratic rivals and the usual conservative carpers.

For example, Warren was asked what took her so long to release her payment plan? And how do her numbers add up?


On the campaign trail, Warren promises her sweeping health care overhaul won’t increase taxes on the middle class by “one penny” and lays out “different pathways” for funding it. The plan mostly relies on employer contributions and new taxes on the financial sector, large corporations, and the highest income earners. Running a single national health insurance program will result in cost efficiencies for consumers, Warren also argues.

Kate McKinnon as Elizabeth Warren.
Kate McKinnon as Elizabeth Warren.Will Heath/NBC

In the “SNL” skit, McKinnon said she would pay for the plan by cutting military spending, getting Jeff Bezos to go “from paying no tax to a tax,” and taxing banks. “Not one penny from the middle class,” she promises, just like the real Warren. “All we’ve got to do is convince JP Morgan to operate like a nonprofit.” That’s funny because it echoes what her detractors say she wants to do: destroy capitalism. It’s why, as the New York Times reported, Warren’s rise scares the heck out of bankers, investors, and their clients, which in turn, inspires her Democratic rivals to take advantage of the fear factor associated with her candidacy.


Warren supporters will argue Wall Street hate puts her on the side of the angels and the people. But it also re-ups the same, old electability question. Can a candidate who pledges to tear apart the economic status quo, and replace it with something more equitable, beat the entrenched interests already battling to save their wealth? They’re ready to fight and so is Warren. But she allowed the payment question to drag on too long, and with that comes questions about her honesty and health plan calculus.

There’s public support for the concept she’s pitching. “Overall, a majority of Democrats and about half of independents favor a national Medicare for All plan while most Republicans oppose," notes a recent summary of public opinion by the Kaiser Family Foundation, which tracks health care issues. “Yet, it is unclear how much staying power this support has once people become aware of the details of any plan or hear arguments on either side.” Kaiser polling shows that public support shifts when people hear about potential tax increases or delays in medical tests and treatment. Many people “falsely assume they would be able to keep current health insurance under a single-payer plan, suggesting another potential area for decreased support,” Kaiser reports.


Under Medicare for All, there’s no private insurance. "SNL'' addressed that too, as McKinnon explained that ditching your private health insurance will be like leaving a bad boyfriend. “Girl, listen to me. You need to leave him. He’s draining you. You deserve better,” declared McKinnon. Once you do, she added, “one day Blue Cross Blue Shield is going to text you from the club saying, 'Baby, I miss you. ' And you’re going to say: ‘New phone, who dis?’ ”

Convincing, right? No, not even on “SNL:" “I don’t know, Pete Buttigieg seems nice,” comes the skit-ending reply. That’s funny, too — if you’re Buttigieg, not Warren.

Joan Vennochi can be reached at joan.vennochi@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @joan_vennochi.