House Democrats call on Biden to add Medicare-related provisions to economic plan

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Four House Democrats organized a letter calling on President Biden and Vice President Harris to expand Medicare by broadening eligibility and “empowering Medicare to negotiate with pharmaceutical companies.”

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In the letter obtained by and first reported on by Politico, Democratic Reps. Pramila Jayapal (Wash.), Jared Golden (Maine), Joe Neguse (Colo.) and Conor Lamb (Pa.) urged the Biden administration to lower the age of Medicare eligibility to 55; include vision, dental, hearing and an out-of-pocket cap; and allow Medicare to negotiate drug prices with drug manufacturers.

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The lawmakers pointed to a study from Stanford University that found many people under the age of 65 wait until they have Medicare coverage to undergo diagnostic tests to determine whether they have diseases like cancer.

They also argued for expanding the benefits offered by Medicare, pointing to reports that the majority of people who need hearing or dental devices do not have them.

“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 House Democrats wrote.

One of Biden’s campaign promises was to get rid of the “outrageous exception” that allowed pharmaceutical companies to avoid negotiating with Medicare over drug prices.

“The United States spends, by far, more on prescription drugs than any other country, despite Medicare Part D being the largest purchaser in the world,” the lawmakers wrote. “The Congressional Budget Office estimated Medicare could save over $450 billion and increase revenue by $45 billion over the next decade by requiring Medicare to negotiate with pharmaceutical companies.”

Politico noted that more than 20 House Democrats have signed on to the letter.

It comes one day after a group of 17 Democratic senators made the same requests as their House colleagues in a letter to Biden. The senators who signed that letter included Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.).

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