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Tags: Medicare | medicare expansion | progressives | age eligibility

Progressives Bolster Push to Expand Medicare in Congress

bernie sanders stands behind podium outside
Sen. Bernie Sanders, Independent of Vermont, speaks to pro-immigration activists from organizations including CASA and the Center for Popular Democracy, during a rally on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., June 24, 2021. (SAUL LOEB/AFP via Getty Images)

By    |   Monday, 05 July 2021 11:29 AM

The Congressional Progressive Caucus is ratcheting up efforts to expand Medicare in an upcoming legislative package, but face concerns that their proposals are going head-to-head over limited dollars with other health care priorities such as extending Affordable Care Act subsidies and expanding Medicaid in states that have so far refused to do so, The Hill reported on Monday.

The main goals of the progressives are to have eligibility begin at 60 years old instead of 65 and to extend coverage to dental, vision, and hearing, with Sen. Bernie Sanders championing their cause.

The Vermont Independent said that "there are millions of older workers who would like to get Medicare, but they can't, which is why we've got to lower the age."

However, supporters of the effort admit that adding new benefits has a much better chance of passing the Democrat-only package than lowering the eligibility age, which is considered more politically controversial, as it opens up the debate about moving toward "Medicare for All."

For example, key swing vote Democrat Sen. Joe Manchin told The Washington Post that he opposes lowering the Medicare eligibility age. 

The White House budget request for fiscal 2022 includes lowering the Medicare age and adding dental, hearing, and vision benefits, but questions about how much of a priority these items are for the administration were raised when the proposals were left out of President Joe Biden's $1.8 trillion American Families Plan, The Hill reprted.

The Partnership for America’s Health Care Future - a group including pharmaceutical companies, hospitals, and insurers - is running expensive ads against lowering the Medicare age, saying it is a step toward more government-run coverage and away from private coverage.

Federation of American Hospitals CEO Chip Kahn added that "What sounds too good to be true usually is. As analysis tells us, what seems so simple would actually result in the largest and most costly overhaul of Medicare."

The Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget estimates that reducing the Medicare age to 60 would cost $200 billion over 10 years. Adding dental, vision, and hearing would result in an additional $358 billion over 10 years, the Congressional Budget Office estimated in 2019.

"It’s largely a question of how much can be squeezed into the overall reconciliation package, given the other discussions about revenue and total size," said a senior Democrat aide. "Lowering the Medicare age can get expensive in a hurry, especially with the changes that would be needed to ensure it doesn’t have higher premiums or worse benefits than what the ACA provides older low income Americans."

Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer lent his support last month for including dental, vision, and hearing in Medicare coverage, but made no mention of lowering the Medicare age to 60, according to The Hill.

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Politics
The Congressional Progressive Caucus is ratcheting up efforts to expand Medicare in an upcoming legislative package, but face concerns that their proposals are going head-to-head over limited dollars...
medicare expansion, progressives, age eligibility
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2021-29-05
Monday, 05 July 2021 11:29 AM
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