Democrats Plot Biggest Health Care Expansion Since Obamacare

·2 min read

As Democrats get down to negotiating and writing their budget reconciliation bill, The Washington Post’s Rachel Roubein notes that the legislation is poised to be the biggest health expansion since Obamacare.

Roubein breaks down what’s likely to be included in that expansion — and adds that one major progressive policy change likely won’t make the cut. Here’s an overview.

Expanding Medicare coverage to include dental, vision and hearing: This “seems a foregone conclusion,” Roubein says, but adding those benefits will likely take years. “In the meantime, a Senate Democratic aide said the chamber is crafting a stopgap policy to help seniors afford these services right away.”

Expanding Medicaid in states that haven’t done so under Obamacare: Democrats are working on a plan to extend Medicaid coverage to 2.2 million more adults via a federal plan for states that have resisted expanding the health care program for low income people under the Affordable Care Act. Under a leading option, Roubein reports, “people would get free coverage on Obamacare’s marketplaces for several years, giving time for federal officials to create a new Medicaid-like program providing more robust benefits.”

Plans to lower prescription drug prices: Democrats have pushed to allow the federal government to negotiate prices with drugmakers, but there are likely to be some differences between a plan passed by the House in 2019 and legislation being developed by Senate Finance Committee Chair Ron Wyden (D-OR).

“The House bill tied Medicare drug negotiations to prices for selected drugs overseas — a plan that has faced pushback from moderates,” Roubein writes. “Instead, Wyden is eyeing a new route: tying price negotiations to a domestic benchmark, according to three lobbyists familiar with the discussions.” The details of these and other drug-pricing measures are going to be the subject of “pretty fierce negotiations,” one health policy lobbyist tells the Post.

No reduction in Medicare eligibility age: President Biden and other key Democrats have endorsed the idea of lowering the Medicare eligibility age to 60, but the proposal isn’t likely to make the cut.

Read the full piece at The Washington Post.

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