President Biden unveiled his $3.5 trillion infrastructure bill months ago and, in it, he addressed economic recovery, taxes, improving the United States’ transportation infrastructure, and the expansion of Medicare. With the introduction of any new bill, changes are sure to come—and they have.
Unfortunately, when it comes to the expansion of Medicare, Biden is showing doubts about having sufficient support needed to expand benefits including dental, hearing, and vision coverage.
Why is the expansion of Medicare benefits getting pushback from some Democrats?
Medicare, a program that was established in 1965, typically doesn’t provide coverage for most dental care, vision, or hearing services. Of the estimated 62 million people receiving Medicare benefits, many are either required to pay for these services out of pocket, purchase supplemental insurance, or forgo those services altogether.
With Biden’s infrastructure bill, many Medicare recipients would gain access to vision, dental, and hearing coverage. While much of Biden’s infrastructure bill has gained support from politicians, the expansion of Medicare isn’t among the provisions with wide support.
During a CNN town hall held on Oct. 21, Biden expressed his support for the Medicare clause included in his infrastructure bill. Although he referred to the expansion as “a good idea,” he addressed the pushback it was receiving. Biden said Senator Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Krysten Sinema (D-Ariz.) are two politicians who do not favor the expansion of Medicare benefits.
Manchin claims he doesn't want to “further burden Medicare.”
Both Sinema and Manchin are pushing back against the idea of expanding all three areas of Medicare. Their votes hold heavy sway over whether the infrastructure bill will pass.
According to President Biden, Manchin “doesn't want to further burden Medicare because it will run out of its ability to maintain itself in “X” number of years.” For this reason, Biden says expanding Medicare is “a reach.” Biden did, however, mention that expanding benefits is “not that costly in relative terms, especially if you let Medicare negotiate drug prices.”
If the expansion of Medicare benefits were to be left out of the proposed $3.5 trillion infrastructure bill, which is expected to be trimmed down significantly, Biden says there is the potential for the issuance of an $800 voucher that would go toward dental work.
Dental services, in general, are costlier than vision and hearing care. Biden said he’s managed to “take care of” cutting down on hearing care costs with the FDA's approval of over-the-counter hearing aids. This would mean a prescription or fitting with an audiologist would no longer be required to purchase hearing aids.
Senate Budget Committee Chairman Bernie Sanders says the Medicare provision must stay.
While Biden appears less optimistic on the expansion of Medicare benefits as a part of his massive infrastructure bill, Senator Bernie Sanders is still pushing for the provision.
Sanders took to Twitter where he stated “The expansion of Medicare to cover dental, hearing, and vision is one of the most popular and important provisions in the entire reconciliation bill. It’s what the American people want. It’s not coming out.”
Clearly, Sanders is standing firm on getting the expansion of Medicare benefits passed.
What else is included in Biden’s infrastructure bill?
If Biden’s infrastructure bill passes, the President is promising the following:
- Upgrades to various power grids, allowing for cleaner energy.
- Technology upgrades in target cities. The President says the water system in New Orleans is “running on technology that is 100 years old.” This would allow for the necessary upgrades.
- Replacement of lead pipes to ensure cleaner water is accessible to those who are not currently receiving it.
- Affordable child care for couples earning under $300,000, or $150,000 for single parents.
- Infrastructure improvements to address global warming and reduce pollution.
Biden claims the infrastructure bill will ultimately “make the most important investment in public transit in American history.” The bill is expected to “make life better for millions of Americans” by providing union jobs with decent pay paving a way for the economy to recover.