Chuck Schumer And Bernie Sanders Team Up to Expand Medicare

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One of Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders‘ signature issues when running for president in 2016 and 2020 was single-payer healthcare; i.e. “Medicare-for-All.”

Most countries offer healthcare as a human right to all its citizens.

The United States is an outlier.

Of the 25 wealthiest nations, we are the only one that fails to do this.

Thanks to a forty-year neo-liberal shift that has prioritized Wall Street, the defense industry, and generally any individual or corporation ideologically committed enough to capitalize on the “money=free speech” position the Supreme Court agreed is constitutional, the prospect of the federal government guaranteeing every American comprehensive healthcare coverage from birth to death has been deemed “radical.”

Despite the partisan rhetoric, more Americans on both sides of the political spectrum favor a single-payer national healthcare system than ever before, and they are sick (no pun intended) of sacrificing their sovereignty and security so another obscenely rich CEO can bilk from them another billion dollars in tax-deferred compensation.

But while it looks unlikely we’re going to get a national healthcare system similar to Canada‘s anytime soon, there is some movement on Capitol Hill.

Senate Majority Leader Charles (“Chuck”) Schumer, Democrat of New York, on Sunday stated he agrees with Sen. Budget Committee Chair Sanders’ proposal to add dental, vision, and hearing coverage to the existing Medicare program.

Last week, Sen. Sanders tweeted, “I do not think it is too radical an idea to say that keeping teeth in your mouth should not be a luxury,” adding:

In 1965, half of all seniors over the age of 65 had no medical insurance. The passage of Medicare ended that injustice.

Now, in 2021, we can continue to fulfill the promise of Medicare by expanding it to include dental care, eyeglasses, and hearing aids. Let's get it done.

— Bernie Sanders (@BernieSanders) June 19, 2021

In response, Sen. Schumer told reporters:

“With the current Medicare platform, those three things are just left out, like it’s no big deal. But it is a big deal and we should fix it.”

There is a gaping hole in Medicare that leaves out dental, vision, and hearing coverage.

This is a serious problem.

I’m working with @SenSanders to push to include dental, vision, and hearing Medicare coverage in the American Jobs and Families Plans.

— Chuck Schumer (@SenSchumer) June 20, 2021

Schumer further added:

“If you talk to family medicine or primary care doctors, they will tell you with certainty that ignoring medical issues related to dental, vision and hearing often devolves into far more serious medical problems for people—especially seniors—that cost more to treat and are harder to remedy,”

Schumer‘s position comes days after over 100 healthcare, faith, and labor groups urged  him and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) to include Medicare expansion in the Biden administration’s American Families Plan  infrastructure package.

Sen. Sanders and Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.) co-authored a Washington Post op-ed in May arguing:

“It’s past time to fix the gaping holes that are the lack of coverage for dental, vision and hearing, which are so critical, especially as we age.

“[S]ince its inception in 1965, Medicare has not covered such basic health-care needs as hearing, dental care and vision. The result: Millions of senior citizens have teeth rotting in their mouths, are unable to hear what their children and grandchildren say or can’t read a newspaper because of failing eyesight. It is a cruel irony that older Americans do not have coverage for these benefits at the time when they need it the most.” 

While an incremental step, it is a step in the right direction nonetheless.

Recognizing this, Sen. Schumer explained expanding coverage will be “an uphill legislative effort because there are some in the Senate who really don’t think this is a problem worth fixing.”

He therefore insists it is crucial to “galvanize support from the public” to pressure lawmakers to pass it.

We can reach our House and Senate representatives at 202-224-3121 or at their local offices.

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