Sanders said Senate Democrats were weighing $ 1,000 vouchers for seniors to buy new Medicare benefits.
“I think what we’re looking for is $ 1,000 right away, use it to go to the dentist if you can’t afford to go,” he told Insider.
Experts say it could take Medicare years to implement a new dental coverage program.
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Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont said on Tuesday that Senate Democrats were considering $ 1,000 vouchers for seniors to access expanded Medicare benefits that could be an important part of a 3.5 billion social spending plan. dollars they want to adopt this month. He said this would serve as a brief interim measure during the implementation of the programs.
“As far as the voucher goes, what we want to do is make sure people understand what it means,” the Vermont Independent told Insider. “So as a bridge I think what we’re looking at is $ 1,000 right away, use that to go to the dentist if you can’t afford to go. temporary, but maybe a bridge for a year. “
Senate Democrats are looking to expand Medicare to cover dental, vision and hearing benefits in their party line social spending program. Expanding the scope of the federal medicare program is a top priority for Sanders as chairman of the Senate Budget Committee and he enjoys the support of Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer.
House Democrats introduced legislation for Medicare to phase in vision coverage next year, hearing in 2023, with dental coverage in 2028. But Sanders said he was in favor of a faster timeframe. for dental coverage.
The measure highlights the challenges Democrats face as they attempt to deliver tangible benefits to Americans as part of a social spending program that is still taking shape – for seniors especially before the mid-terms of next year. Americans over 65 typically vote at higher rates, making the elderly a key voting block in presidential elections and even more so in midterm races.
Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon, chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, told Insider he discussed the idea with Sanders. “I am discussing with Senator Sanders the best way to put it in place and make it work efficiently as quickly as possible,” he said.
The Oregon Democrat drew a parallel with the Affordable Care Act ten years ago – President Barack Obama’s signature health care law – claiming that the four-year “delay” in its implementation after its adoption has contributed to an “understandable skepticism that people have towards government.”
Other Senate Democrats are also keen to implement the programs as soon as possible. “I think we should try to get it up as quickly as possible,” Sen. Bob Casey of Pennsylvania told Insider. “I’m not saying we could do it in a few months, but I think you can do it a lot faster than a few years.”
But experts say it could take Medicare years to design and implement new programs. Medicare was last extended in 2003 under President George W. Bush to cover prescription drugs, and began providing coverage three years later.
For dentists, who are largely not part of federal health programs, the process would include setting reimbursement rates and enrolling enough dental providers to cover tens of millions of Americans. Tricia Neuman, executive director of health insurance policy at the Kaiser Family Foundation, recently told Insider that it could take years for the federal government to “successfully” implement a new dental benefit.
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