Republicans aren’t the only ones ready to put roadblocks in the way of President Joe Biden’s new economic relief plan. Democratic members of Congress, led by Rep. Pramila Jayapal of Washington and Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, are pushing the White House to include massive health care expansion as part of the package.
Eighty House Democrats signed a letter to the president and Vice-President Kamala Harris urging them to include an expansion of Medicare in the American Families Plan, which Biden pitched to the American people Wednesday night.
Some of the provisions the legislators want included in Biden’s plan include the ability for Medicare to negotiate drug prices, lowering the eligibility age to 60 and adding Medicare benefits such as dental, vision and hearing.
The letter cited how the COVID-19 outbreak is the worst health crisis the country has faced in a century, and that expanding Medicare will provide a medical safety net for older Americans, who are among the most vulnerable to the effects of the virus. In particular, they argue that lowering the age people are eligible to join to 60 could prove life-saving for millions of aging Americans who often put off going to the doctor or seeking medical treatment until they reach the current eligibility age of 65.
Sanders said on Wednesday he will “absolutely” pursue Medicare expansion as lawmakers begin crafting legislation around Biden’s plan.
Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin of Illinois, said he sees Medicare reforms as a game-changer, and that he doesn’t know why the White House decided against including health care expansion in Biden’s plan. Despite campaigning by Sanders and other Democrats, the president ultimately opted to only propose extra subsidies for Americans who buy their health insurance, a disappointment to many legislators who otherwise support the ambitious agenda.
The battle over Medicare promises to further complicate Biden’s attempt to get his massive spending plan across the finish line. Some Democratic lawmakers believe now is the time to push through these types of major reforms, ahead of the 2022 midterms, which could cost the Democrats their already-slim advantage in Congress.