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Elizabeth Warren says she’ll release plan in ‘a few weeks’ on how to pay for Medicare for All

Senator Elizabeth Warren, shown during a rally Friday in Norfolk, Va., said Sunday she will release a plan in a “few weeks” laying out how she would pay for her ambitious health care proposal.
Senator Elizabeth Warren, shown during a rally Friday in Norfolk, Va., said Sunday she will release a plan in a “few weeks” laying out how she would pay for her ambitious health care proposal.Parker Michels-Boyce/New York Times

INDIANOLA, Iowa — Senator Elizabeth Warren said Sunday she will release a plan in a “few weeks” laying out how she would pay for her ambitious health care proposal, following criticism from Democratic rivals over her refusal to answer questions about whether middle class taxes would increase to fund “Medicare for All.”

“What I see though is that we need to talk about the cost,” Warren said at the end of a town hall attended by hundreds at Simpson College, just south of Des Moines. “And I plan over the next few weeks to put out a plan that talks about specifically the cost of Medicare for All and specifically how do we pay for it.”

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The Democrat from Massachusetts faced fierce attacks at last week’s debate over her vagueness about what additional taxes on middle class Americans would be necessary to provide a government-funded universal health care system. Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont, who wrote the Medicare for All bill endorsed by Warren, did not come to her defense at the Democratic debate in Ohio, saying it was “appropriate” to concede that additional middle class taxes would be needed to fund it.

Former vice president Joe Biden and Pete Buttigieg, mayor of South Bend, Ind., continued to criticize Warren in the days afterward, with Biden saying she needs to “tell the truth” about her plan.

Warren told the Iowa crowd Sunday that 10-year estimates of the cost of Medicare for All vary by “trillions and trillions of dollars” and that her team is hard at work attempting to figure out the best way to raise revenue to fund the sweeping transformation of the nation’s health care system. The Globe reported last week that her campaign team has been in touch with at least one economist about funding options for the plan before Tuesday’s debate.

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“This is something I’ve been working on for months and months, and it’s just got a little more work until it’s finished,” Warren said Sunday.

She told reporters after the event that “nothing’s changed” about her support for Medicare for All and that she has been “working for a long time” on figuring out the best way to pay for the plan. Warren brushed off questions about why she endorsed the plan before she figured out how to pay for it or how much it would cost.

“I’ve been working on how to get the exact details to make that work,” she said.

Warren also defended her focus on the overall costs of health care to middle class Americans, saying those costs are what voters bring up to her in the lengthy photo lines she holds after every event.

“What they talk about is how the cost of health care is crushing,” she said.

Warren’s allies have said that the senator is avoiding handing Republicans a video clip of her endorsing higher taxes on the middle class, a clip that would be misleading given that they believe Medicare for All would save those people far more in health care costs than they would owe in additional taxes.

Reporters, debate moderators, and her rivals have attempted for weeks to get Warren to concede that taxes would have to go up on the middle class to pay for a universal health care system. The senator has instead pivoted to the overall cost of the plan, pointing out that middle class people would spend less on health care overall because they no longer would be responsible for premiums or co-pays.

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Warren did not answer a reporter’s question Sunday about whether her plan would include a new tax that affects middle class people.

Some of Warren’s fans at Sunday’s event said they were happy that the senator known for having “a plan for that” will finally release one for paying for one of the most transformative policies she has endorsed.

“I appreciate that she’s going to share how she plans to have it paid for,” said Tabitha Doherty, a 19-year-old Simpson College student who attended Warren’s town hall and supports her in the Democratic primary.

Doherty said she was initially “afraid of” Medicare for All but has since come around to it. “I think it’s a big issue because Medicare for All will affect everyone,” she said.

Only 42 percent of Democrats strongly favor a Medicare for All system, according to a recent Kaiser Family Foundation poll.


Liz Goodwin can be reached at elizabeth.goodwin@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @lizcgoodwin.