Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., appears set for an intraparty battle with progressives over a plan to lower the eligible age for Medicare.
Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., said Thursday she wants to lower the eligibility age from 65 to 55 as part of President Joe Biden's American Families Plan. The Hill noted it is a priority shared by Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt.
But Manchin, a key centrist in the 50-50 Senate, is against the proposal. He cites concerns about the long-term solvency of the program if it is made available to millions of more Americans.
Manchin told The Washington Post on Wednesday that he opposes expanding Medicare eligibility.
"No, I’m not for it, period," Manchin said.
But Warren, speaking at a Washington Post live event on Thursday said: "I'd like to see us start out by lowering the age of Medicare down to 55. That would cover people who, as your health care costs go up — that's kind of the time period — that you would get good, solid, publicly available coverage."
Sanders, quoted in The Wall Street Journal, said: "We should lower the eligibility age for Medicare from 65 down to 60. There are many millions of seniors who would be very, very grateful if we did that right now."
He expressed hope that Medicare could be expanded to cover dental care, hearing aids and eyeglasses.
Meanwhile, more than 20 House Democrats have signed a letter to Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris urging them to expand eligibility for Medicare and to allow Medicare to negotiate drug prices with manufacturers.
The letter was spearheaded by Democrat Reps. Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash., Jared Golden, D-Maine, Joe Neguse, D-Colo., and Conor Lamb, D-Penn., among others. It calls for the Biden administration to lower the age of eligibility for Medicare to 60 or 55, provide coverage for vision, dental, hearing, and a cap on out-of-pocket costs, and allow for Medicare to negotiate directly with drug manufacturers over prices.
"We write to ask that the American Families Plan put forth a critical investment in health care to bolster the security of our country’s economy and families," the letter reads. "By prioritizing the inclusion of robust drug-pricing provisions, we can produce enormous federal savings and use it to sustainably expand health coverage, equity, and access.
"As we emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic — the nation’s most acute health care crisis in the last century — now more than ever, we must ensure that families and older adults are equipped with the health coverage they need. Medicare is one of the most popular and foundational federal programs in the United States."
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