Bernie Sanders Fights to Lower Medicare Eligibility Age to 55

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Senator Bernie Sanders of (I – Vt.) is fighting for a forthcoming multi-trillion-dollar infrastructure package to significantly expand Medicare by lowering the eligibility age from 65 to either 55 or 60—an idea President Joe Biden floated on the campaign trail last April, otherwise known as Medicare For All.

In addition to increasing eligibility for Medicare, the Vermont Senator is wanting to expand Medicare coverage to include dental care, hearing aids, along with glasses and eye surgeries. 

In order to pay for such an expansion, Sanders’s proposal includes using cost savings from negotiations Medicare would have with pharmaceutical companies. It is estimated that the cost savings generated would amount to $450 billion over 10 years. President Biden called for similar negotiations in his healthcare plan

Survey says… Americans agree

Surveys have shown that the idea of lowering the Medicare eligibility age (which has been at 65 or older since the program’s inception in 1965) is popular with the American public. A GoHealth survey from last October found that 70% of respondents not on Medicare at the time and 58% of Medicare beneficiaries supported the idea.

Additionally, according to an analysis by the healthcare consulting firm Avalere, lowering the Medicare eligibility age to 60 could extend the program’s coverage to as many as 23 million people.

“It’s the right thing to do,” Sanders adviser Faiz Shakir tweeted Friday. “It’s massively impactful. It’s popular.”

What’s next?

Republicans generally oppose expanding government entitlement programs like Medicare. However, hospitals could be more likely to derail efforts to expand Medicare, as they could face lower reimbursement if more commercial health plan members move to Medicare. There are very large obstacles that Sanders and supporting Democrats face. 

President Biden plans to unveil more details about his infrastructure proposal during a speech in Pittsburgh next week. Democrats want to address not only transportation, broadband, and climate change in the proposal, but also paid leave, education, and potentially health care.

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