WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) must ensure that Medicare drug price negotiation, Medicare dental, vision and hearing services benefits, and a lowering of the Medicare eligibility age to at least 60 are a part of the Build Back Better reconciliation package, Public Citizen and over 20 Virginia-based organizations said in a letter to the lawmaker today.
“This broad coalition of Virginia-based labor, civil rights, consumer, community and health organizations calling on Sen. Warner to be a strong champion to improve and expand Medicare in the Build Back Better package mirrors the national movement in favor of these common sense and popular reforms,” said Melinda St. Louis, health care campaign director at Public Citizen.
Warner sits on the key Senate Finance Committee, which will decide whether these key health care policies are included in the $3.5 trillion package. The organizations’ letter follows a letter from 77 groups that called on Senate leadership to include Medicare drug price negotiation and expansion in the package.
“Congress has the opportunity to improve the Medicare program and meet its intended purpose, to provide the necessary health services to care for our seniors, said Kristin Hoffman, Virginia state organizer for Our Revolution. “Dental, Vision, hearing care, and affordable medicine are not luxuries; they are basic necessities. As the richest nation in the world, and the only industrialized country to not provide universal healthcare for all its citizens, expanding Medicare benefits and allowing for negotiated drug prices is the least we can do, especially during this COVID crisis.”
A recent poll from Data for Progress illustrated wide support across party lines for expanding and improving Medicare. The poll found that 86% of Americans, including 82% of Republicans, support adding dental, hearing and vision benefits to Medicare. In addition, expanding Medicare access to dental, hearing, and vision services, as well as lowering the eligibility age to 60, would improve and expand health care access to millions of Americans.
“Our community’s worth is not defined by whether or not we can pay. Many immigrant Virginians are not eligible for Medicaid or ACA/marketplace because of their immigration status,” said Zowee Aquino, policy and communications officer with the National Korean American Service & Education Consortium (NAKASEC) Virginia. “I want to know how we, and thousands of other Virginians, are expected to survive if we can’t afford our care when we’re sick. When our employers won’t cover us, when we can’t afford private coverage out-of-pocket, and when our plans don’t cover what we need, what are we expected to do? Right now, the answer seems to be ‘nothing’ and that is not a good enough answer.”
Read the letter here.