Progressives, frontliners, and moderates unite to call on President Biden and Vice President Harris to expand Medicare by lowering the eligibility age, improve Medicare benefits, and empower Medicare to negotiate drug prices for all Americans
WASHINGTON — More than 80 progressives, moderates, and frontliners from across the House Democratic caucus joined forces today in urging President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris to expand and improve Medicare as part of the American Families Plan.
Their letter — which is signed by frontliners running in the most competitive districts across the country, members of the moderate New Democrat Coalition, and members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus — calls on the Biden Administration to expand Medicare by lowering the eligibility age while also empowering Medicare to negotiate drug prices for all Americans. Additionally, the lawmakers advocate for using the savings from drug-pricing to improve Medicare benefits to include dental, vision, hearing, and an out-of-pocket cap. Uniting members of the diverse Democratic Caucus, the letter was led byRepresentatives Pramila Jayapal (WA-07), Jared Golden (ME-02), Joe Neguse (CO-02), and Conor Lamb (PA-17).
“Lowering the Medicare 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,” wrote the lawmakers. “Therefore, we are asking for you to prioritize the expansion and improvement of Medicare in the American Families Plan. We strongly support this investment and stand ready to help your Administration make it a reality.”
President Biden and Vice President Harris have previously expressed commitments to expanding Medicare eligibility, improving its benefits, and empowering Medicare to negotiate drug prices. Beyond being supported across the Democratic caucus, expanding Medicare is popular throughout the country with support from overwhelming bipartisan majorities. According to a recent Gallup poll, 65 percent of Americans — across party lines — are in favor of lowering the eligibility age. Another poll found that 79 percent of older voters want a routine dental, vision, and hearing benefit added to Medicare.
Lowering the Medicare age would provide immediate coverage for millions of older adults who are still uninsured or underinsured. Dropping the eligibility age to 60 could allow an additional 23 million people to access Medicare coverage. Additionally, lowering the age to 55 would expand Medicare coverage to more than 40 million people. Expanding Medicare — which has the largest network of providers in the country and is one of the most affordable health insurance programs — is also critical to addressing inequities in health coverage with communities of color disproportionately more likely to be uninsured.
The letter also calls for improving Medicare’s benefits to include dental, vision, and hearing while adding an out-of-pocket spending cap. This comes at a time when at least 75 percent of Medicare beneficiaries who need a hearing aid do not have one, 70 percent of beneficiaries did not go to the dentist in the past year, and nearly half did not have an eye exam in the past year. Poor oral health, vision loss, and hearing impairment have been independently linked to numerous negative health outcomes, such as diabetes, cardiovascular issues, depression and dementia.
Finally, the lawmakers urged the White House to empower Medicare to negotiate drug prices for all Americans at a time in which the United States currently spends more on prescription drugs than any other country. This would not only lower the high price of prescription drugs but also help pay for expanding Medicare. The Congressional Budget Office estimates that Medicare could save over $450 billion and increase revenue by $45 billion over the next decade by requiring Medicare to negotiate with pharmaceutical companies. This savings could be used to make necessary expansions and improvements to Medicare while making bold investments in health coverage and affordability.
Today’s letter follows a similar call by 17 Senators from across the Democratic party who also urged the White House to expand and improve Medicare as part of the American Families Plan. This effort is in addition to work happening on the ground in communities across the country. Nearly 50 local, state, and national organizations have already sent a letter to the Biden Administration calling for Medicare to be immediately expanded and improved.
The letter is signed by more than 80 lawmakers including U.S. Representatives Pramila Jayapal, Jared Golden, Joe Neguse, Conor Lamb, Alma Adams, Cindy Axne, Nanette Diaz Barragán, Karen Bass, Donald S. Beyer Jr., Earl Blumenauer, Suzanne Bonamici, Carolyn Bourdeaux, Jamaal Bowman Ed.D, Cori Bush, Andre Carson, David Cicilline, Yvette Clarke, Steve Cohen, Jason Crow, Madeleine Dean, Peter A. DeFazio, Diana DeGette, Mark DeSaulnier, Ted Deutch, Debbie Dingell, Lloyd Doggett, Veronica Escobar, Adriano Espaillat, Dwight Evans, Ruben Gallego, Sylvia Garcia, Jesús G. “Chuy” García, Jimmy Gomez, Raul Grijalva, Jahana Hayes, Steven Horsford, Sheila Jackson Lee, Sara Jacobs, Hakeem Jeffries, Henry C. “Hank” Johnson, Mondaire Jones, Kai Kahele, Ro Khanna, Ann Kirkpatrick, Brenda Lawrence, Barbara Lee, Teresa Leger Fernández, Ted Lieu, Zoe Lofgren, Alan Lowenthal, Carolyn Maloney, Kathy Manning, Betty McCollum, Grace Meng, Jerry Nadler, Marie, Newman, Donald Norcross, Eleanor Holmes Norton, Alexandria Ocasio Cortez, Ilhan Omar, Jimmy Panetta, Dean Phillips, Chellie Pingree, Mark Pocan, Katie Porter, Ayanna Pressley, Jamie Raskin, Lucille Roybal-Allard, Michael F.Q. San Nicolas, Mary Gay Scanlon, Jan Schakowsky, Elisa Slotkin, Adam Smith, Darren Soto, Haley Stevens, Mark Takano, Rashida Tlaib, Ritchie Torres, Norma Torres, Lori Trahan, Juan Vargas, Nydia M. Velázquez, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Bonnie Watson Coleman, Susan Wild, Nikema Williams, Frederica Wilson, and John Yarmuth.
To view the language of the letter, click here.
Issues: Health Care