On the 27th of May, 2021, over 150 US. House democrats signed a letter and sent it to President Biden and Vice President Kamala proposing the expansion of Medicare. These Democrats, who represent 70% of the house democrats, are pushing for the expansion of Medicare. At the core of the proposal is lowering the eligibility age from 65 to 60. Furthermore, they seek to improve Medicare benefits by including dental, hearing, out-of-pocket cap, and hearing. Not only that, but they also want to empower Medicare to negotiate the price of prescription drugs.
Legislators stated many reasons why Medicare should be expanded in their letter. First, they claimed that lowering the Medicare age will allow Medicare to cover millions of uninsured or underinsured adults. They further added that Stanford University researchers found a sudden spike in the diagnosis of cancer among people aged 65 because many adults do not have care until they are eligible for Medicare.
Also, Stanford University research shows that the reason individuals between the ages of 61 to 64 lack insurance are because of early retirement. It also added that lack of insurance by these individuals could also be caused by exorbitant private insurance and pre-existing health conditions that are impeding renewals. In addition, they argued that the expansion would allow low-income earners and people of color a better chance to have health insurance.
Their argument for expanding traditional Medicare benefits to include dental, hearing, and vision was also backed by some research. They claimed that because dental care, eye care, and hearing care are expensive, many Americans do not bother going to the necessary practitioners for treatment or checkups when they need to. They also added that poor dental care, hearing impairment, and vision loss had been linked to health issues like depression, dementia, diabetes, and cardiovascular problems. In light of this, they said it is important to include dental care, ear care, and eye care under Medicare to help the populace.
Although this proposal will be popular with a lot of voters, it has some financial implications. First, lowering the eligibility age from 65 to 60 will add about 23 million Americans to the Medicare program. This will also come at the cost of $200 billion over the next ten years. Secondly, expanding Medicare to include dental, hearing, out-of-pocket cap, and hearing will also cost up to $350 billion over the next ten years.
How Will The Government Pay For The Cost That Comes With Expanding Medicare?
There are skepticisms on how the Government will pay for the cost that comes with expanding Medicare. However, this group of legislators said the US. Federal Government should also be able to negotiate with pharmaceutical companies to lower the prices of prescription drugs. Therefore, they believe that the negotiation will help cover the cost that comes with expanding Medicare.
Besides, the Congressional Budget Office estimated that negotiating prices of prescription drugs could save Medicare over $450 billion in the next ten years. Not only that but, it could also increase Medicare’s revenue by $45 billion over the next decade.
It is still unclear whether President Biden will incorporate the proposal into his infrastructure package. However, if he does, he could face some challenges in the US. Senate over it.
My Final Word
Although expanding Medicare can be seen as a good thing for Americans, the Government still has to do what's best for the country. But, of course, part of what's best for the country is to analyze the financial implication of the proposal. Hopefully, in the coming weeks, things will become more evident, and we'll be able to know what the President and the Senate finally decide about the proposal.