Elizabeth Warren challenges her opponents on the issue of “choice”

Senator Elizabeth Warren has come under fire from her Democratic primary rivals in recent weeks due to her support of Medicare for All and her plan to pay for it. One week from tonight, ten candidates will take the stage in Atlanta for the fifth Democratic presidential debate where Warren will attempt to the turn the tables on her opponents, particularly those attempting to outflank her from the center.

Through her steadfast brand of retail politics and a fusillade of policy proposals, Warren has propelled herself to the lead in several early-state and national polls. Taking notice of her newfound front runner status, Warren faced a barrage of criticism from candidates to her right over what they claimed was a vagueness in explaining how she would finance a single-payer health system, and whether her plan would require a middle-class tax hike.

 

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In an effort to quell the onslaught, Warren’s campaign released a plan detailing how, as president, she would pay for Medicare for All. The plan commits to $20.5 trillion in new spending through large tax increases on corporations and Americans in the highest income brackets.

“Every candidate who opposes my long-term goal of Medicare for All should explain why the ‘choice’ of private insurance plans is more important than being able to choose the doctor that’s best for you without worrying about whether they are in-network or not. Why it’s more important than being able to choose the right prescription drug for you without worrying about massive differences in copays. Why it’s more important than being able to choose to start a small business or choose the job you want without worrying about where your health care coverage will be coming from and how much it will cost.”

The policy specifics of Warren’s plan continue to be scrutinized and debated, a dynamic unlikely to change for the remainder of the primary season, assuming she retains her position in the top tier of candidates. If the language in Warren’s plan does signal a change, however, it might be the extent to which the term, “choice”, is redefined going forward.

Thus far, Warren has chosen her words carefully when responding to incoming attacks, usually omitting her opponents’ names. At the recent Liberty and Justice Celebration in Des Moines, Warren stated,

“I’m not running some consultant-driven campaign with some vague ideas that are designed not to offend anyone,” adding that there are candidates in the field who “think that running some vague campaign that nibbles around the edges is safe.”

The comment was speculated to be a direct rebuke of Mayor Pete Buttigieg, who began to rise in the polls after criticizing Warren for “not being straightforward” as to how she would pay for Medicare for All. Buttigieg has championed a Medicare for All Who Want It plan, code for a Medicare Buy-in commonly referred to as a public option.

From Warren’s left, Senator Bernie Sanders criticized her plan for its potential to adversely impact average workers and employers. Sanders favors a payroll tax which he believes would draw more revenue from wealthy employees.

In the portion of the plan directed at her opponents, Warren also challenged them to come up with an alternative that would cover everyone without costing the country more in health care spending.

“If they are unwilling to do that, they should concede that they think it’s more important to protect the eye-popping profits of private insurers and drug companies and the immense fortunes of the top 1% and giant corporations, rather than provide transformative financial relief for hundreds of millions of American families.”