Does Warren have plan for Medicare-for-All questions?

Elizabeth Warren is riding high, polling ahead of Joe Biden in early voting Iowa and New Hampshire, and closing the gap in national polls. But that surge has come with a downside — the front-runner bullseye now firmly on her back. In this week’s Democratic presidential debate, most of the arrows fired her way had to do health care, as more moderate rivals pummeled her evasions as Warren refused to answer whether taxes for middle-class Americans would go up under the Medicare-for-All proposal she supports. 

Pete Buttigieg said afterwards that Warren has been “more specific and forthcoming about the number of selfies she’s taken than about how this plan is going to be funded.” 

Ouch.

“I will not sign a bill into law that does not lower costs for middle-class families,” Warren said in Tuesday’s debate, steadfastly refusing to hand Republicans a video clip admitting that taxes will rise, a moment that would surely become the centerpiece of a prominent ad attacking her in a general election showdown. 

Warren’s position is that overall health care costs for middle-class families, which currently include premiums, co-pays, deductibles, and non-reimbursed out-of-pocket expenses, would go down under a single-payer plan. That almost certainly means higher taxes for many, but supporters say average Americans will nonetheless come out ahead. 

Try packaging that into a snappy sound bite and it becomes clear why, on this issue, Warren is not exactly riding the Straight Talk Express. 

And good for her, say some. 

“While some pundits may be frustrated that she’s not repeating insurance industry talking points, Democratic voters who care about electability are very happy that she’s standing her ground and not giving Republicans rope to hang Democrats with,” Adam Green, cofounder of the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, told the Globe.

For an idea of how messy the details quickly get on a single-payer, check out WBUR’s admirable effort this week to flesh out how Medicare-for-All plans would affect four Massachusetts households. 

Warren’s signature line on nearly every issue has become, “I’ve got a plan for that.” On health care, however, her approach actually been more, “Bernie’s got a plan for that — and I support it.” 

Medicare-for-All is a cornerstone of her lefty rival Bernie Sanders’s campaign, and Warren and several other Democratic contenders have simply jumped on board. Lots of pundits have called that a serious error, as even Democratic voters appear split on the issue

Democrats were able to flip the House in last year’s midterm election by pounding Republicans for their effort to repeal the Affordable Care Act. Medicare-for-All has put Democrats on the defensive over an issue on which they were winning. 

The irony for Warren, writes The New Yorker’s John Cassidy, is that the hyper issue-focused candidate started the year treating her support of Medicare-for-All more “as a statement about aspirations rather than a commitment to the particulars of the Sanders plan.” The goal, she said, is affordable health care for all Americans. There are “different ways we can get there,” Warren said in a January interview. 

The problem is she has now hitched her wagon to one very specific way to get there, and the questions about how it would work and what it would cost are not likely to go away. 

Cassidy says Warren needs to flesh out those details, or go back to her embrace of the idea as part of a broad long-term aspiration, not a detailed plan. 

Local pundit Mary Ann Marsh tells the Globe Warren’s support for Medicare-for-All is a smart way to win progressive support and that she’ll have room to moderate her stance if she wins the nomination.

Cassidy thinks we’ll get some of that pivot sooner, especially as the issue threatens to crowd out things like Wall Street regulation or a wealth tax, which poll much better and for which Warren actually has developed the plans she’s promoting. 

“Her ill-defined association with Sanders’s Medicare for All proposal risks obscuring the rest of her program,” he writes. “I would expect her to clarify it, and soon.

MICHAEL JONAS


BEACON HILL

A gas tax hike, which key lawmakers seem to be lining up behind, is regressive and would disproportionately hurt low-income people, according to the left-leaning Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center. (CommonWealth)

The Senate Ethics Committee is wrapping up its investigation into Brockton Sen. Michael Brady’s drunk driving plea deal. It’s unclear whether he will be disciplined. (State House News)

The Senate passes a bill that would create a registry of caregivers who abuse people with disabilities. (MassLive)

Quincy state Rep. Tackey Chan is again facing backlash over a bill that would require state agencies to collect more specific information about people’s ethnicity rather than lumping them into broad racial categories. (Patriot Ledger) 

Gov. Charlie Baker’s sky-high approval rating remains firmly in place, despite the string of bad news to hit his administration. (Boston Globe

MUNICIPAL MATTERS

The Framingham City Council is reviewing a noise ordinance that would crack down on sounds “deemed to be annoying.” (MetroWest Daily News)

WASHINGTON/NATIONAL/INTERNATIONAL

Mick Mulvaney sends the impeachment probe into a new orbit, as the White House acting chief of staff brazenly tells a packed press briefing that President Trump withheld military aid to Ukraine until it investigated unsubstantiated conspiracy theories about the country’s hacking of Democratic National Committee servers. He later tried to “walk back” the comments, which are deeply damaging to Trump. (New York Times

ELECTIONS

Two counterintuitive notes from the campaign cash trail. Despite vowing to break up its biggest players, Elizabeth Warren raised five times as much as Joe Biden from big tech donors, according to a new analysis. (Vox) Meanwhile, Biden scored the most maximum donations from Massachusetts residents who had already given to his campaign. (WBUR) 

Ed Markey has vowed not to take any money from fossil fuel interests, but he accepted donations last quarter from at least four lobbyists who represent the industry. (Boston Herald

Brockton City Councilor Robert Sullivan and Jimmy Pereira, a community and transportation planner who’s running for the second time, tangled in a mayoral debate. (Brockton Enterprise) 

BUSINESS/ECONOMY

John Henry, the owner of the Boston Globe and Red Sox, showed interest in participating in the development of the land Wynn Resorts owns across from its Everett casino, according to two people familiar with the talks. Others are interested, too. (CommonWealth)

Juul Labs suspends the sale of all fruity flavored vaping pods in the US pending a review by the Food and Drug Administration. (MassLive)

Amazon is preparing to open a distribution center in Revere that will bring with it 600 to 800 full and part-time jobs. Mayor Brian Arrigo says Amazon will be the city’s largest employer. (Daily Item

Lowell residents in the city’s Highlands neighborhood sent a clear message to the team at adult-use marijuana company Ganesh Wellness – they do not support the business’s proposed location in their community. (Lowell Sun)

EDUCATION

Students at Andover High School are being disciplined after a fight between two students that triggered a number of other incidents. (Eagle-Tribune)

Jeff Cournoyer, a top communications aide to UMass President Marty Meehan, is appointed managing director of UMass Amherst’s Mount Ida campus in Newton. (MassLive)

Bristol Community College is looking for a new home for its Taunton campus. BCC has occupied a first-floor space in Taunton’s Silver City Galleria mall after moving out of the former Taunton Middle School building on Summer Street. (Taunton Gazette) 

HEALTH/HEALTH CARE

New tools to let health care consumers compare prices are rarely being used and are doing little to contain costs, according to a new report issued by Attorney General Maura Healey. (Boston Globe)

A Boston University public health professor is scheduled to take the stand and testify that Gov. Charlie Baker’s vaping ban is doing more harm than good. Vape industry groups are seeking a court order declaring the ban unlawful. (Boston Herald)

ARTS/CULTURE

Savepoint Tavern in Worcester is preparing to open as the city’s first bar where people can eat, drink, and play video games in a social setting. (Telegram & Gazette)

Leaders of a community arts center in Dorchester are dejected over a Wednesday break-in at their Fields Corner studios. (Boston Herald)

Jared Bowen reviews an exhibition at the Addison Gallery of American Art. (WGBH)

TRANSPORTATION 

The US Army Corps of Engineers has talked about handing over control of the Bourne and Sagamore bridges to the state after replacing them. (Cape Cod Times) 

CRIMINAL JUSTICE/COURTS

Two Massachusetts State Police troopers are accused of accepting free rifles from a vendor seeking to do business with the law enforcement agency. (MassLive)

A Supreme Judicial Court justice ruling slams the state’s handling of the drug lab scandal involving chemist Sonja Farak. (Boston Globe)