Examining Conflicting Claims About ‘Medicare for All’

“But it is also likely that the company would not give them a $20,000 raise,” he said. “While the average is $20,000, not everyone receives this in benefits. We simply cannot make that projection without a fully fleshed out financing plan.”

Under a single-payer plan, said Linda J. Blumberg of the Urban Institute, the wages for workers who currently do not receive employer-sponsored health care, however, may decrease.

What Was Said

“It puts $11 trillion back in the pockets of American families, and doesn’t raise taxes on the middle class by even a cent.”
— Ms. Warren, in a Twitter post in November

“The average American will pay less for health care under Medicare for all.”
— Mr. Sanders, in the PBS interview

Whereas Mr. Sanders has said taxes will increase for average families under Medicare for all and Ms. Warren has based her plan on a promise to avoid additional taxes on the middle class, their statements make a similar point: Most Americans would see savings under Medicare for all. But both of their claims require additional context.

Ms. Warren does not include any middle-class tax increases in her plan but would charge employers a tax equal to 98 percent of what they were previously paying for employee health care. Unlike Mr. Sanders’s suggested payroll tax, this tax is not proportional to workers’ pay and thus would have regressive effects, Howard Gleckman of the Tax Policy Center and Matt Bruenig of the progressive People’s Policy Project have argued.

Since employers would essentially pay the same amount for health care under Ms. Warren’s plan than under the status quo, that hypothetical household making $100,000 is also theoretically less likely to see a pay raise under the employer tax than under a payroll tax. (Nonetheless, Ms. Warren assumes that higher take-home pay is guaranteed, because employees would no longer be paying a share of health premiums or contributing to health savings accounts, and includes $1.15 trillion in additional tax revenue in her calculations.)

While Mr. Sanders does not commit to specific financing mechanisms, those proposed by his 2016 campaign would leave the program $16.6 trillion short, according to the Urban Institute, raising the possibility of additional costs to families. Mr. Thorpe found that 72 percent of families would see savings under that 2016 plan. But when Mr. Thorpe modeled higher taxes to achieve a deficit-neutral plan, it resulted in 71 percent of families paying more.