This question relies on an incomplete understanding of the proposed funding mechanisms for Medicare For All as detailed here, either on her Official Proposal or the New York Times' breakdown: Elizabeth Warren’s ‘Medicare for All’ Math.
- Most of the increase in federal funding is intended to come from redirecting existing spending by Employers and state and local governments to a new Federal program
- Wealth taxes on billionaires are intended to provide only a small amount of the proposed funding increases.
- Other taxes (like increased capital gains and a financial transactions tax) will affect people with lower incomes, but are still primarily targeted at “the 1%” (literally in the case of the capital gains tax).
As the question states, getting $20.5 T over 10 years from Billionaires alone is likely impossible. But that's not what has been proposed. Thus, this answer serves as a kind of frame challenge to that premise, as presented in this question and other critiques of Medicare for all.
How much does Medicare for all cost?
Warren’s proposal is based on Sanders’ Medicare For All proposal which has been assessed by The Urban Center to require $34 trillion in additional Federal spending over 10 years. Her plan makes more aggressive assumptions about the ability to reduce health care costs, and estimates a cost of $26.6 trillion over 10 years.
Out of that, $6.1 trillion will come from state and local governments, as they will no longer have to pay for Medicare. This would result in a total of $20.5 trillion in new federal spending over 10 years.
Where will the money come from?
Where will that $20.5 T come from? According to the released plan, the lion’s share of the new funding comes from redirecting employer health care spending from private companies to the government. The rest would come from increased taxes on corporations, capital gains, and financial transactions; increased IRS enforcement against tax cheats; and taxes on increased take-home pay from the elimination of employee health care premiums.
Despite the outsized attention it has received, the increased wealth tax on billionaires, which is what the above tweet is referring to, is not a major funding source. It is estimated to provide only $1T over 10 years, which is not an unreasonable amount to collect (compared to $20T).
What has Warren said about who would pay?
Here's Senator Warren's official statement on who will pay for Medicare for All:
I asked top experts – Mark Zandi, the Chief Economist of Moody’s Analytics; Betsey Stevenson, the former Chief Economist for the Obama Labor Department; and Simon Johnson – to examine options for how we can make up that $11 trillion difference. They conclude that it can be done largely with new taxes on financial firms, giant corporations, and the top 1% – and making sure the rich stop evading the taxes we already have.
That’s right: We don’t need to raise taxes on the middle class by one penny to finance Medicare for All.
So the line, as it has been fairly consistently, is no new taxes on the middle class.
This plan keeps to that, with new taxes falling only on the rich. It is inaccurate, though, to say that only Billionaires will have new taxes, and certainly wrong to say that only the rich will pay:
- Will only billionaires pay for Medicare for All?
- No, most of the money will come from the places where health care spending currently comes from, which includes employers, and existing taxes.
- If the funding works as intended, workers not in the top 1% of incomes will pay less for heath care than they do now, but it will not be "free".
- Will only billionaires pay new taxes?
Can we say if people think that only billionaires will have to pay?
It is currently much too early to know whether people trust this plan. Since it has only been out for a few days (it was released on November 1st), most people probably don't know anything about it yet. In contrast, Trump had been talking about Mexico paying for “the wall” for 3 years by the time the other question had been asked.
But a more accurate question (and the one that polls will likely focus on when they become available) would focus on the lack of new middle-class taxes, since that seems to be the main point that Warren is emphasizing with this plan.