May 27, 2021

70 percent of House Democrats pressure Biden to expand Medicare in American Families Plan

A large coalition of House Democrats launched a campaign to ramp up pressure on President Biden, calling on him to follow through with a campaign promise and prioritize expanding Medicare in the American Families Plan. 

A total of 156 House Democrats, ranging from moderate to progressive, signed a letter requesting the administration lower the eligibility age for Medicare, decrease prescription drug costs and expand coverage to dental, vision and hearing. The signers of the letter represent more than 70 percent of House Democrats. 

Progressive leader Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), centrist Rep. Jared Golden (D-Maine), Rep. Joe Neguse (D-Colo.) and Rep. Conor Lamb (D-Pa.) are leading the push for the largest expansion of health care since the Affordable Care Act. 

“Lowering the eligibility age and improving its benefits package would provide immediate and substantial relief for millions of individuals throughout the United States, as well as much-needed long-term security,” the letter reads. 

The call for action on Medicare comes after Biden’s American Families Plan excluded health care initiatives promoted by congressional Democrats, including Medicare expansion and prescription drug cost reductions. 

But Democrats are requesting the Biden administration show its support for these measures by including it in the plan, as health care has been a key issue for Democratic voters. 

In the letter, the lawmakers urge the president to lower the starting age for Medicare to 60, permitting at least 23 million Americans to enter the program at a cost of $200 billion over a decade. 

The House Democrats also request upgrades to Medicare benefits to incorporate dental, vision and hearing coverage, which they note almost 80 percent of older voters want included. This effort would cost $350 billion over 10 years. 

The lawmakers argue that the desired Medicare expansion could be funded if the federal government was able to negotiate to pay lower prescription drug prices. The Congressional Budget Office has estimated such a move would save the government about $450 billion in 10 years. 

“Now is a historic opportunity to also make an important expansion of Medicare that will guarantee health care for millions of older adults and people with disabilities struggling with the health and economic realities of the COVID-19 pandemic,” the letter said. 

Almost 20 senators, led by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), have also appealed to the administration to put Medicare expansion and upgrades in the American Families Plan. 

If the administration were to pursue these measures, the pharmaceutical industry would be expected to strongly advocate against these changes, saying the drug pricing negotiations would inhibit the industry’s ability to develop new drugs.


By:  Justine Coleman
Source: The Hill