Posted on July 16, 2021 by Kyle Walton
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Posted on July 16, 2021 by Kyle Walton
It looks like a few key changes and expansions to the existing Medicare program may be in the works, as Democrats get closer to achieving one of their biggest recent healthcare policy goals. However, the recent push has led to many questions regarding national healthcare coverage and access to Medicare for all eligible Americans.
Earlier this month, congress rolled out a new proposal that is targeted at seniors and those with qualifying disabilities who rely on Medicare as a primary means of health insurance coverage. This new proposal includes an effort to make Medicare coverage more inclusive, specifically as it pertains to vision, dental, and hearing needs.
The new legislation seeks to add preventative dental, hearing, and vision care to Medicare Part B, with the goal of eventually expanding those benefits to the coverage of basic impairments. So far, 76 Democrats have signed onto the bill, which was originally proposed by Rep. Lloyd Doggett (D-Tex.).
Additionally, there has been an ongoing effort to lower the age that one becomes automatically eligible for Medicare. As of right now, that age is 65, but may members of congress have been working toward lowering the age to 60 years old as a means of further expanding coverage to millions of older Americans.
According to Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), “there are millions of older workers who would like to get Medicare but they can’t, which is why we’ve got to lower the age.”
Lawmakers pushing for the proposed alterations to Medicare hope to include the new legislation in whatever budget reconciliation package is moving through the house and senate this fall. Currently, the bill requires only Democratic votes to pass.
As the details continue to be negotiated and discussed in a bipartisan manner alongside new national infrastructure talks, Democrats are also hoping to move several healthcare expansions through the pipeline. President Biden’s administration also seems to be on board, so long as the bill’s votes are derived from both chambers of congress.
“As long as we can get to 218 votes and 50 votes in the Senate, they’re excited about it,” Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.) recently told The Hill.
The White House fiscal budget request for 2022 does include calls to lower the Medicare age as well as add dental, hearing, and vision benefits, but interestingly, these proposals were not included in President Biden’s recent $1.8 trillion American Families Plan. Naturally, this has led to some concerns over whether the administration views Medicare expansion as a top priority right now.
Though Medicare expansion does seem like a great idea on the surface, there are many who are concerned about what a possible overhaul to such a long-standing system may mean for several parties involved.
Many in the healthcare industry are opposed to the changes, noting high costs and potential medical budget cuts as reasons to steer clear of the expansion.
In addition to a possible higher cost to taxpayers, many hospitals and medical associations worry that Medicare ultimately pays lower rates to providers than private insurers do, perhaps leading to detrimental cost-saving measures on the part of medical providers going forward.
“What sounds too good to be true usually is. As analysis tells us, what seems so simple would actually result in the largest and most costly overhaul of Medicare,” Chip Kahn, CEO of the Federation of American Hospitals, claimed recently.
There is some financial evidence to support this claim, as the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget estimates that lowering the Medicare age to 60 could cost upwards of $200 billion dollars over the next decade.
Furthermore, in 2019 the Congressional Budget Office estimated that adding dental, vision, and hearing coverage to Original Medicare may cost an additional $358 billion over the course of that same time period.
The Washington Post also notes that two-thirds of adults in the 60-64 age bracket already have private insurance through an employer, meaning switching to Medicare at an earlier age may not be as financially beneficial as originally thought. This is especially true for those with lower incomes who may be eligible for Medicaid or certain Affordable Care Act coverage.
Currently, expanded Medicare coverage options, like eyeglasses, dentures, and hearing aids may be available in your area through Medicare Part C, also known as Medicare Advantage. With new changes to Medicare currently being discussed in congress, navigating the world of Medicare coverage alone isn’t getting any easier.
At MedicareInsurance.com, you can get in touch with a licensed agent today in order to further discuss your current Medicare coverage options. We’ll be happy to further inform you about the many Medicare Advantage coverage plans that may be available to you. Feel free to also utilize our free coverage comparison tool!