Progressives Press for Medicare Benefits


October 13, 2021 6:14 am

New vision, dental, and hearing benefits under Medicare must be included in Democrats’ social spending package if it’s going to win support from progressives, lawmakers said yesterday.

“This to me is not negotiable,” Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) told reporters when asked if cutting the added benefits is a red line for progressives. Progressive Caucus Chair Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), said her coalition shares this sentiment.

Factions of the Democratic party are jockeying to maintain what they consider to be core elements of the evolving social spending bill, which contains the bulk of President Joe Biden’s economic agenda. Congressional leaders are aiming to cut or reduce areas of the once-$3.5 trillion spending package to win the support of key moderates. One of those moderates, Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) has said he doesn’t support adding new benefits to Medicare without first addressing the program’s long-term solvency.

The policy also faces stiff opposition from the insurance industry. The proposed new benefits under Medicare come with a $358 billion price tag. 

  • Jayapal also said that instead of cutting provisions, progressives would be open to making them effective for a shorter length of time. “What the progressive caucus, would like to have is not some false choice of just doing a couple of things and pitting communities against each other and leaving people behind, but actually reducing the number of years slightly if we need to,” Jayapal said.
  • The progressives said that Manchin and Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) have yet to come forward with a formal counter-proposal, making it difficult to move forward in negotiations. Sanders said the time is “long overdue” for Manchin and Sinema to let Democrats know what they want to cut from the bill.