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Still, if Sanders can’t get Medicare for All passed through Congress, he might be able to expand who is eligible for Medicare.
- If there’s one thing Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders is best known for, it’s his advocacy for the universal health care policy known as Medicare for All.
- This policy was a centerpiece of both Sanders’ 2016 and 2020 presidential runs and it remains a top priority for him and other progressive members of Congress.
- But President Joe Biden has long opposed Medicare for All and instead supports expanding the Affordable Care Act (better known as Obamacare).
- Still, if Sanders can’t get Medicare for All passed through Congress, he might be able to expand who is eligible for Medicare.
Lowering the age of Medicare
- Despite the general popularity of Medicare for All in polling, it’s unlikely the United States will see the policy passed since it would require a massive overhaul of both the government and health care.
- Sanders appears to realize that, which is why he’s currently focused on lowering the age limit for Medicare from 65 to 60 or maybe even 55.
- Along with lowering the age of Medicare, Sanders also wants the government to negotiate with pharmaceutical companies to bring down the price of prescription drugs.
- Sanders’ goal is to include these changes in the giant infrastructure bill that is currently being debated in Congress.
Can Sanders really lower the age of Medicare?
- There is a slim but very real possibility that he can.
- It helps that Sanders is not alone in his mission.
- Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer has also voiced support for both lowering the age limit on Medicare for All and cutting drug prices.
- Sanders, who is an Independent but votes (or “caucuses”) with the Democrats, was also joined by 17 other Democrats in Congress who urged Biden to support the changes.
- As the chairman of the Senate Budget Committee, Sanders has the unique ability to push for his agenda.
- Using what is known as the budget reconciliation process, which allows Democrats in the Senate to bypass a Republican filibuster, Sanders could pass the changes without a protracted fight.
- But for this to happen, all 50 Democratic senators would have to vote together, which may not be so likely.
What is Medicare?
- Created in 1965, Medicare is a health insurance program run by the government.
- Medicare is mostly known as an insurance plan for older Americans. This is because most of those who are eligible for it are 65 and older.
- But it’s also available to those under the age of 65 who have disabilities and those with End-Stage Renal Disease (i.e., kidney failure).
Medicare for All vs Medicare
- Despite the name, Medicare for All and Medicare are actually fairly different ideas.
- The Medicare program is insurance, which means it can still potentially cost money and won’t necessarily be accepted by all doctors.
- But the vast majority of doctors do accept it and if you were (or still are) a working American who has paid Social Security taxes, you likely won’t have to pay for Medicare (or at least not much).
- Medicare for All on the other hand is universal health care that is pretty similar to what nearly every other developed country has.
- It would be available to all Americans and would allow them to go to any doctor without paying anything.
- But the concern about Medicare for All, or any other universal health care plan, is how it would be paid for.
- Critics have argued that a universal health care system would require raising taxes, meaning the plan wouldn’t really be “free” since payments would just be in the form of higher taxes.
- But Sanders insists his plan wouldn’t require raising taxes because Medicare for All would save the government money in the long run.
Other supporters of Medicare for All, such as Senator Elizabeth Warren, have suggested that another way of paying for the program would be to raise taxes, but only on the wealthiest Americans.
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