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Democrats seek to expand Medicare benefits to cover dental, hearing, vision for first time

Expanded benefits would be offered even as the Medicare trust fund is projected to become insolvent by 2026.

Updated: September 8, 2021 - 11:00pm

The Facts Inside Our Reporter’s Notebook

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and other Senate Democrats are planning a major expansion of Medicare benefits in their $3.5 trillion filibuster-proof reconciliation bill to include dental, hearing and vision coverage under the federal program for the first time.

"Many of the policies in the budget resolution were part of President Biden's American Jobs and Families Plan," Schumer said Wednesday on a press call. "Some go beyond, like expanding Medicare to cover dental, vision and hearing benefits.

"These benefits are undeniably important to our nation's seniors and were left out of Medicare at the beginning when they shouldn't have been. Democrats are working to rectify this, and thanks in large part to Senator Sanders, this budget reconciliation package will include a robust and historic expansion of Medicare to cover dental, vision, and hearing." 

Michigan Democratic Sen. Debbie Stabenow, Democratic Policy and Communications Committee chairwoman, said that seniors "deserve to have Medicare" cover their dental, hearing and vision costs.

"For the first time, we believe that Medicare should cover the cost of dental, hearing, and glasses," she said. "These are essentials, and we believe that seniors deserve to have Medicare cover these basic costs."

Senate Budget Committee Chairman Bernie Sanders argued that coverage of these services under Medicare is "overwhelmingly popular" with the public.

The Medicare trust fund, formally titled the Hospital Insurance Trust Fund, is currently projected to become insolvent by 2026.

In addition to expanding Medicare benefits, Democrats have also proposed universal pre-K, tuition-free community college, financial support for childcare and more new programs to expand the social safety net in the U.S. as part of the reconciliation package. 

West Virginia Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin said recently that he cannot vote to spend $3.5 trillion, but Democratic leaders on Wednesday signaled that they are pressing forward with the reconciliation bill.

 

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