Far-left congressional members have started to increase their efforts to expand Medicare into the next legislative package by lowering age qualifications and adding more benefits.
The lar-left group in Congress, the Congressional Progressive Caucus, has reportedly made their case on Tuesday in a meeting with Steve Ricchetti, the White House counselor. They allegedly said they want to lower the eligibility to 60 years old from 65, in addition to adding dental, vision, and hearing coverage.
Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) has been one of the members pushing the proposal, as he has said that seniors “can’t chew food properly” due to an absence of dental coverage.
The campaign from the far-left members has also been receiving some criticism from Democrats. Some advocates and congressional aides have said adding these benefits would cause the bill to be a partisan Democratic-only package. The Hill noted that changing the age has been politically controversial and causes debate from the more radical “Medicare for All.”
The chairwoman of the radical caucus, Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-WA), has reportedly said the White House is supportive of the group’s ideas if they can secure votes in both chambers. “As long as we can get to 218 votes and 50 votes in the Senate, they’re excited about it,” Jayapal told the Hill.
Jayapal also said she had been trying to pressure the White House for more public support, according to the Hill. “We’ve been asking them to continue to push for that, to make it a real priority, and mostly we get positive answers,” she said.
Jayapal said, “We knew it wasn’t gonna be in there,” when she was asked about the White House not including the provision in the 2022 fiscal requests.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) tweeted last month his support for the idea, “There is a gaping hole in Medicare that leaves out dental, vision, and hearing coverage. This is a serious problem.”
“I’m working with [Sanders] to push to include dental, vision, and hearing Medicare coverage in the American Jobs and Families Plans,” he added. However, his tweet did not mention lowering the age to 60, which is part of the provisions that Jayapal is proposing:
There is a gaping hole in Medicare that leaves out dental, vision, and hearing coverage.
This is a serious problem.
I’m working with @SenSanders to push to include dental, vision, and hearing Medicare coverage in the American Jobs and Families Plans.
— Chuck Schumer (@SenSchumer) June 20, 2021
A letter was signed in May by over 155 Democrat lawmakers requesting Medicare to lower the minimum age, in addition to adding dental, vision, and hearing benefits, and even lowering drug prices to produce savings to pay for the plan.
On Tuesday, Democrat Rep. Lloyd Doggett (TX) will introduce a bill with 75 co-sponsors to add dental, hearing, and vision benefits to the Medicare program.
“This bill offers more care from Medicare responding to basic dental, hearing, and vision impairments for seniors and individuals with disabilities,” Doggett said. “It fulfills the original purpose of Medicare—to assure dignity—helping those who have difficulty seeing, hearing, or eating.”
Chip Kahn, CEO of the Federation of American Hospitals, said last month, “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.” His group, which includes pharmaceutical companies, hospitals, and insurers, has started to run ads against lowering the Medicare age as part of a seven-figure ad buy.