How would Warren pay for 'Medicare for All'? Enough evasion, it's past time for answers.

Chris Truax, Opinion columnist

When it comes to doing things, Elizabeth Warren has a plan for everything — and she’s happy to tell you all about it. But when it comes to paying for things, I'm sorry to say, the Massachusetts senator dodges and deflects like a Donald Trump defender.

It’s estimated that "Medicare for All" will cost the federal government an extra $3 trillion a year. That’s more than $9,000 annually from every man, woman and child in America. Despite being asked, again and again, Warren refuses to acknowledge that paying for this is going to require an across-the-board tax increase — and a pretty massive one, at that. Instead, she keep talking about how “costs” will go down before she changes the subject to how stressful it is to have your insurance canceled when you get sick or when you have to cope with your mom having diabetes. That’s very true, I’m sure. But we’re talking fiscal policy here.  

Winners and losers in Medicare for All

There’s a very unpleasant collectivist feel to this. It’s all very well to say you can’t make an omelet without breaking some eggs … unless you’re the egg. About 56% of Americans — more than 180 million — have private health insurance through an employer. Medicare for All would sweep that all away, whether the people who have that insurance like it or not, in the name of the common good. Perhaps worse, as Warren knows perfectly well but steadfastly refuses to admit, there are going to be winners and losers. Costs might go down in the aggregate, but individuals and families aren’t aggregates.

Elizabeth Warren's choice: 'Medicare for All' purity or a path to beating Trump?

For example, Warren keeps saying that the total you pay for health care would end up being less under Medicare for All because it will eliminate out-of-pocket costs like premiums and copays. That’s an oversimplification at best, especially since she hasn’t said how she would finance this enormously expensive project.

But it is a given that everyone will pay higher taxes, and it’s older people who spend more in premiums and out-of-pocket health care costs — a lot more. Consequently, older people will be far more likely to see these higher taxes offset by a decrease in the cost of their health care. By contrast, younger people and families at healthier stages of their lives would still be paying new taxes but will see fewer benefits.

Elizabeth Warren and Pete Buttigieg at the Democratic debate in Westerville, Ohio, on Oct. 15, 2019.

On average, would people be better off with lower taxes and more disposable income to buy a home, invest, or raise a family when they were younger and then absorb higher health care costs when they are older? Or would they be better off forgoing that income and avoiding those health care costs later? I don’t know, and neither does Sen. Warren. But this is exactly the kind of thing we need to have an open and honest debate about.

Give voters facts, or GOP will do it

Warren is treating the American public like children and insisting that she knows best. This is foolish in the extreme. Even if she doesn’t want to discuss the costs and trade-offs of Medicare for All, she can be sure that, should she become the Democratic nominee, the Republicans will do it for her. Her refusal to admit the obvious makes her look dishonest.

Doing it wrong: 2020 Democrats, stop arguing about health care and show leadership.

Medicare for All is not a good idea. It’s just an idea. It’s up to the American people, after considering the pros and cons — which, yes, do include much higher taxes for everyone — to decide whether, on balance, the trade-offs make it worthwhile or whether something else, like an expanded and fortified Obamacare or a public insurance option, would be better.

Mayor Pete Buttigieg of South Bend, Indiana, is exactly correct when he says that Americans want choices, and that we should trust them to make the right decisions for themselves, for their families — and for the country. You do that by being straight with them. There are many possible paths to beating Donald Trump in 2020, but I can guarantee you that trying to out-spin and out-dodge him is not one of them.

Chris Truax is an appellate lawyer in San Diego and a member of USA TODAY's Board of Contributors.

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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Warren is dodging and spinning like Donald Trump on 'Medicare for All'