An article on the NPR website discusses a proposed expansion of Medicare that would potentially include coverage for dental, hearing, and vision benefits. An outline of an upcoming budget bill directing the Senate Finance Committee to put forth the expansion was released by Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer on Monday.
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The expansion—which would only become law if the entire budget bill passes the House and Senate—would be the first time that significant benefits have been added to the program in decades, according to the article. As NPR explains, previous administrations in the ’80s and ’90s were less focused on adding benefits to Medicare then on trimming costs in an effort to make the program more fiscally sound. This contradicted the way in which Medicare’s creators conceived of its long-term, expansive goals, as they did not anticipate the political shift to the right and that the program would be “labeled a fiscal problem and that policymakers would be more concerned with avoiding the next trust fund shortfall than expanding benefits,” said Jonathan Oberlander, a professor of health policy at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill who was quoted in the article.
Additionally, NPR reports, far more “critical gaps” exist in Medicare’s coverage that have demanded attention over the years, including the lack of coverage for long-term custodial care in a nursing home or the absence of limits on patient cost sharing, which can be 20% on outpatient care and run indefinitely.
There has been momentum for change in the recent election year as both President Biden and Bernie Sanders, I-Vt, campaigned on the promise of lowering the eligibility age of Medicare from 65 to 60. Lawmakers being pressured to appropriate funds know that adding these benefits would be cheaper than adding nursing home coverage, for example, the article says.
To read the article in its entirety, please click here.