Sens. Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren’s respective presidential campaign platforms center around the idea of Medicare for All. Sanders has admitted that his plan would raise taxes on middle-class Americans. Warren has not volunteered that information or consistently dodges the question when asked.

During the first Democratic debate in June, she talked in general terms about how she agreed with Sanders on Medicare for All. She didn’t mention (and was not asked) how the government would pay for it:

So, yes. I’m with Bernie on Medicare for all. And let me tell you why. I spent a big chunk of my life studying why families go broke. And one of the number-one reasons is the cost of health care, medical bills. And that’s not just for people who don’t have insurance. It’s for people who have insurance.

Look at the business model of an insurance company. It’s to bring in as many dollars as they can in premiums and to pay out as few dollars as possible for your health care. That leaves families with rising premiums, rising copays, and fighting with insurance companies to try to get the health care that their doctors say that they and their children need. Medicare for all solves that problem.

And I understand. There are a lot of politicians who say, oh, it’s just not possible, we just can’t do it, have a lot of political reasons for this. What they’re really telling you is they just won’t fight for it. Well, health care is a basic human right, and I will fight for basic human rights…

At the second Democratic debate in July, she didn’t answer the question about raising middle-class taxes after being asked about it twice by Jake Tapper:

TAPPER: At the last debate, you said you’re, quote, “with Bernie on Medicare for all.” Now, Senator Sanders has said that people in the middle class will pay more in taxes to help pay for Medicare for all, though that will be offset by the elimination of insurance premiums and other costs. Are you also, quote, “with Bernie” on Medicare for all when it comes to raising taxes on middle-class Americans to pay for it?

WARREN: So giant corporations and billionaires are going to pay more. Middle-class families are going to pay less out of pocket for their health care. And I’d like to finish talking about Ady, the guy who has ALS…

[…]

TAPPER: Thank you, Senator. Just a point of clarification… in 15 extra seconds, would you raise taxes on the middle class to pay for Medicare for All, offset, obviously, by the elimination of insurance premiums, yes or no?

WARREN: Costs will go up for billionaires and go up for corporations. For middle-class families, costs — total costs — will go down.

The moderators asked about Medicare for All and the middle-class tax hike that would come with it at the third Democratic debate earlier this month, and Warren again pivoted to “total cost:”

STEPHANOPOULOS: Direct question. You said middle class families are going to pay less. But will middle class taxes go up to pail for pay for the program? I know you believe that the deductibles and the premiums will go down. Will middle class taxes go up? Will private insurance be eliminated?

WARREN: Look, what families have to deal with is cost, total cost. That’s what they have to deal with. And understand, families are paying for their health care today. Families pay every time an insurance company says, sorry, you can’t see that specialist. Every time an insurance company says, sorry, that doctor is out of network, sorry, we are not covering that prescription.

Warren is playing word games when talking about “total costs” going down. Reading between the lines, she’s saying without using the actual terminology that, yes, middle-class taxes will go up. But they will be offset by paying less out of pocket for healthcare services. It’s not true, but it makes for a good soundbite for people who have high out of pocket healthcare costs each year.

Warren’s continued refusal to admit outright the middle-class tax hike under her Medicare for All plan came up on Stephen Colbert’s show Tuesday night.

The liberal TV talk show host brought up the issue with Warren and asked her point-blank about the middle-class tax issue. Again, she refused to admit it:

COLBERT: But there hasn’t been Medicare for All before. You keep being asked in the debates, how are you going to pay for it? Are you going to raise the middle class taxes?

WARREN: Right.

COLBERT: How are you going to pay for it? Are you going to raise the middle class taxes?

WARREN: So, here’s how we are going to do this, costs are going to go up for the wealthiest Americans, for big corporations —

COLBERT: Taxes is what you mean by cost?

WARREN: — yeah and hard-working, middle class families are going to see their costs go down. And —

COLBERT: But will their taxes go up?

Warren again tried to dodge the question, but Colbert brought it back to middle-class tax hikes. Not because he was calling her out, of course, but lending her a helping hand in explaining the issue the next time she’s asked about it:

COLBERT: No, but, here’s the thing, I’ve listened to these answers a few times before and I just — I just want to make a parallel suggestion for you about how you might defend the taxes that perhaps you’re not mentioning in your sentence. Is that, isn’t Medicare for All like public school?

WARREN: See, you know, I actually —

COLBERT: There might be taxes for it, but you certainly save a lot of money on sending your kids to school and do you want to live in a world where kids aren’t educated? Do you want to live in a world where your fellow citizens are dying, even if it costs a little bit of money?

WARREN: — so I accept your point and I believe in your point. Health care is a basic human right. We fight for basic human rights, and that’s Medicare for All. Everyone gets covered …

Watch the segment between Warren and Colbert below:

Colbert’s gracious in-kind contribution to Warren’s campaign on his show ignores the fact a lot of Americans remain dissatisfied with the public school system. But that’s another topic for another day.

The good thing here is that he got her to admit in so many words that the middle class would indeed get hit with higher taxes under her Medicare for All plan. Because not only did she “accept and believe in” his point, but also because she’s endorsed Sanders’ plan. If Sen. Sanders says middle-class taxes will go up under his plan then, of course, they’ll go up under hers, too.

— Stacey Matthews has also written under the pseudonym “Sister Toldjah” and can be reached via Twitter. —

 
 
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