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Jayapal Leads More Than 155 Lawmakers in Urging Biden to Expand Medicare in the American Families Plan

70 percent of the House Democratic Caucus calls on White House to expand Medicare by lowering the eligibility age, improving benefits, and dropping the price of prescription drugs

WASHINGTON — More than 155 moderates, progressives, and frontliners from across the House Democratic caucus united today in urging President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris to keep their campaign promise to expand and improve Medicare as part of the American Families Plan. This would be the nation’s largest expansion of health care since the Affordable Care Act was signed into law. The effort was led by U.S. Representatives Pramila Jayapal (WA-07), Jared Golden (ME-02), Joe Neguse (CO-02), and Conor Lamb (PA-17).

The letter — which is signed by 70 percent of the House Democratic Caucus including moderates, progressives, and more than one dozen frontliners running in the most competitive districts across the country — calls on the White House to:

  • Expand Medicare by lowering the eligibility age, enabling at least 23 million additional people to access the wildly popular program
  • Improve Medicare benefits to finally cover dental, vision, and hearing, which nearly 80 percent of older voters want added to the program
  • Lower the record breaking price of prescription drugs by empowering Medicare to negotiate drug prices for all Americans, saving more than $450 billion over the next decade

“We are asking for you to prioritize the expansion and improvement of Medicare in the American Families Plan,” wrote the 156 lawmakers. “Lowering the Medicare eligibility age and improving its benefits would provide immediate and substantial relief for millions of individuals throughout the United States, as well as much-needed long-term security.”

President Biden and Vice President Harris have previously expressed commitments to expanding Medicare. Beyond being supported across the Democratic party, expanding Medicare is popular throughout the country with support from overwhelming bipartisan majorities. A Gallup poll found that 65 percent of Americans — across party lines — are in favor of lowering the eligibility age. Another recent poll found that a majority of Americans in every single state support the proposal. Even a majority of people who cast their votes for Donald Trump back expanding Medicare.

Lowering the eligibility 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. 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.

Improving Medicare’s benefits to finally include dental, vision, and hearing while adding an out-of-pocket spending cap would also have an immediate life changing impact for millions of people. 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. 

The lawmakers also 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 country in the world. This would not only lower the sky-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 nearly 20 Senators who urged the White House to expand and improve Medicare as part of the American Families Plan. Nearly 50 local, state, and national organizations have also sent a letter to the Biden Administration calling on them to do the same. 

The letter is signed by more than one dozen Democrats who are running in some of the toughest districts in the country including Representatives Allred, Axne, Bourdeaux, Cárdenas, Craig, Crow, DeFazio, Hayes, Horsford, Kim, Malinowski, McBath, Porter, Slotkin, Stevens, and Wild. 

It was also signed by Representatives Adams, Aguilar, Barragán, Bass, Bernice Johnson, Beyer Jr., Blumenauer, Bonamici, Bowman Ed.D, Brown, Brownley, Bush, Carbajal, Carson, Carter Sr., Castro, Chu, Cicilline, Clark, Clarke, Cleaver II, Cohen, Connolly, Correa, Courtney, Dean, DeGette, DeLauro, DeSaulnier, Deutch, Dingell, Doggett, Doyle, Escobar, Espaillat, Evans, Frankel, Gallego, Garcia (IL), García (TX), Gomez, Green, Grijalva, Higgins, Houlahan, Huffman, Jackson Lee, Jacobs, Jeffries, Johnson (GA), Jones, Kahele, Kaptur, Keating, Kelly, Khanna, Kildee, Kilmer, Kirkpatrick, Krishnamoorthi, Kuster, Langevin, Larsen, Larson, Lawrence, Lawson, Lee (CA),Leger Fernández, Levin (MI), Lieu, Lofgren, Lowenthal, Lynch, Maloney, Manning, Matsui, McCollum,  McEachin, McGovern, McNerney, Meeks, Meng, Mfume, Moore, Morelle, Moulton, Nadler, Napolitano, Newman, Norcros, Norton, Ocasio Cortez, Omar, Panetta, Pascrell, Payne, Jr., Perlmutter, Phillips, Pingree, Pocan, Pressley, Quigley, Raskin, Roybal-Allard, Ruppersberger, Rush, Ryan, San Nicolas, Sánchez, Sarbanes, Scanlon, Schakowsky, Schiff, Scott, Sewell, Sherman, Smith (WA), Soto, Strickland, Suozzi,  Swalwell, Takano, Thompson (CA), Titus, Tlaib, Tonko, Torres (CA), Torres (NY), Trahan, Trone, Vargas, Velázquez, Wasserman Schultz, Watson Coleman, Wexton, Williams, Wilson, and Yarmuth.

The text of the letter is available here