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Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Sen. Elizabeth Warren's newly released plan to pay for Medicare for All leaves the middle class financially better off than they are today, but it's not true to say that they won't pay for it at all, experts say.

Between the lines: Employers will directly pay for Medicare for All, and economists predict that this will get passed onto workers through reduced wages — just as employers' costs for private health insurance are passed on today.

Warren's plan, released this morning, would take aggressive health care cost containment measures, lowering its price tag to the federal government.

  • But she still needs to raise $20.5 trillion over a decade — which she says she does with "not one penny in middle-class tax increases."

Reality check: This becomes an issue of semantics. It's true that the middle class won't directly pay any new taxes. And they won't have to pay the individual premiums and out-of-pocket costs that they pay now.

  • But Warren would redirect the trillions of dollars projected to be spent by employers on private health insurance into Medicare for All contributions — which would be collected as taxes.
  • These employers currently pay a portion of workers' premiums, but it's widely assumed by economists that workers ultimately pay for these costs through lower wages.
  • So whether employers are paying a premium contribution or a tax — and Warren's plan is designed for the shift to slightly save money for employers — it's assumed that employees ultimately bear the cost.
  • However, the $11 trillion over 10 years that Americans are expected to pay in individual premium contributions and out-of-pocket spending would disappear, leaving the middle class ultimately better off.

Yes, but: There's plenty of skepticism about Warren's math and some of her revenue streams.

  • And whether her plan would actually improve the health care system — especially in the way she would squeeze various payments to health care industries — is another question. Subscribe to Axios Vitals for more on that on Monday.

Go deeper: Warren releases Medicare for All plan

Go deeper

Omicron pushes COVID deaths toward 2,000 per day

Expand chart
Data: N.Y. Times; Cartogram: Kavya Beheraj/Axios

The U.S. Omicron wave may be peaking, but now COVID deaths are climbing as cases continue to soar in most of the country.

The big picture: Omicron’s stranglehold in the U.S. started about a month ago. Its death toll — while almost certain to be smaller than previous waves of the pandemic — is only now starting to take hold, and deaths will likely continue to rise for several weeks.

Tax season nightmare ahead for understaffed IRS

Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios

The IRS will start accepting 2021 tax returns in less than a week, and the filing delays and administrative headaches to come might eclipse last year — which was “one of the worst filing seasons," according to an independent advocacy agency within the IRS.

Why it matters: For taxpayers, especially with complex or paper filings, this means headaches, delayed refunds, and mistakes.

Reports: CIA finds "Havana Syndrome" unlikely caused by foreign campaign

CIA Director William Burns testifies during a Senate hearing on Capitol Hill last April. Photo: Saul Loeb-Pool/Getty Images

A preliminary CIA report rules out a foreign global campaign as the cause of a mysterious illness known as "Havana syndrome" that's afflicted American and Canadian diplomats around the world, per multiple reports.

Why it matters: Some lawmakers had suggested the sometimes debilitating illness was due to directed energy attacks. But CIA officials told the New York Times that most of the 1,000 cases reported to the government could be "explained by environmental causes, undiagnosed medical conditions or stress." This finding has angered some victims, per the NYT.