Will Democrats Pass Medicare Expansion?

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Senate Democrats are exploring a sweeping $6 trillion budget reconciliation bill that would include a major expansion of Medicare, a long-time priority of progressive lawmakers.
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Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Senate Budget Committee Chairman Bernie Sanders are working on legislation that would build on the dual economic proposals unveiled earlier this year by President Biden: the $2.3 trillion American Jobs Plan and the $1.8 trillion American Families Plan.

Fox Business’ recent article entitled “Democrats eye major Medicare expansion as part of $6T reconciliation bill” reports that the package—which Democrats could pass on a party-line vote using their slimmest-possible Senate majority— includes other Democratic goals. These include lowering Medicare’s eligibility age from 65 to 55 or 60 and expanding the program to cover dental work, eye glasses and eye surgeries, as well as hearing aids.

“There’s a gaping hole in Medicare that leaves out coverage for dental, vision, and hearing — this is a serious problem,” Schumer, D-N.Y., tweeted on Monday. “I’m working with @SenSanders to push to include dental, vision, and hearing Medicare coverage in the American Jobs and Families Plans.”

Dropping the Medicare eligibility age to 60 could provide coverage for up to 11.7 million people with employer-based insurance, 2.4 million people with private coverage and another 1.6 million people who are uninsured. Medicare is the federal health care program for people over the age of 65.

“If you talk to family medicine or primary care doctors, they will tell you with certainty that ignoring medical issues related to dental, vision and hearing often devolves into far more serious medical problems for people — especially seniors — that cost more to treat and are harder to remedy,” Schumer said during a news conference Sunday.

Biden campaigned on expanding the Affordable Care Act and vowed to drop the qualifying Medicare age to 60, with an option for individuals between the ages of 60-64 to keep their coverage. Under an early draft of the $6 trillion plan, roughly half of the proposed spending would be paid for. Democratic efforts to begin moving forward with a party-line bill will start soon.

“We expect to have a whole lot done in July,” Sanders said last week.

Still, it’s unclear whether the measure would receive the necessary support from all 50 Senate Democrats. Moderate members, like Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia, have said they want to look at a bipartisan infrastructure-only deal and have not committed to using reconciliation to pass more progressive priorities.

Reference: Fox Business (June 21, 2021) “Democrats eye major Medicare expansion as part of $6T reconciliation bill”