But there is a commonly accepted term for a plan that requires companies to send payments to the federal government in order to finance government programs. That word is tax. And that is essentially what this is—a nearly $9 trillion payroll tax (or, perhaps, a head tax with some small-business carve outs). It is thus hard to see this as anything other than a massive middle-class tax hike.
That is the argument that former Vice President Joe Biden, another Democratic presidential hopeful, is already making, with a campaign staffer responding to the release of her plan by saying, “For months, Elizabeth Warren has refused to say if her health care plan would raise taxes on the middle class, and now we know why: because it does. Senator Warren would place a new tax of nearly $9 trillion that will fall on American workers.”
Warren and her defenders will likely try to shift the discussion back to total costs, but that’s just a way of repeating the dodge that has dogged her campaign for much of the year. Warren will no doubt claim that costs would go down under her plan, but there are reasons to doubt this, including an analysis from health care economist Kenneth Thorpe finding that under a Sanders-style plan, more than 70 percent of people who currently have private insurance would see costs increase, as well as an Urban Institute analysis projecting that single-payer plans would raise national health care spending by $7 trillion over a decade.