Letter to Joe Biden, President of the United States and Kamala Harris, Vice President of the United States - Congressman Neguse Builds Broad Coalition Urging Biden to Expand Medicare in the American Families Plan

Letter

By: Gwen Moore, Mark Pocan, Marilyn Strickland, Adam Smith, Pramila Jayapal, Derek Kilmer, Rick Larsen, Gerry Connolly, Jennifer Wexton, Don Beyer, Jr., Donald McEachin, Lloyd Doggett II, Kathy Manning, Emanuel Cleaver II, Cori Bush, Ilhan Omar, Betty McCollum, Dean Phillips, Angie Craig, Brenda Lawrence, Rashida Tlaib, Debbie Dingell, Haley Stevens, Andy Levin, Elissa Slotkin, Dan Kildee, Jared Golden, Chellie Pingree, Jamie Raskin, Kweisi Mfume, David Trone, Anthony Brown, John Sarbanes, Dutch Ruppersberger, Bill Keating, Stephen Lynch, Ayanna Pressley, Seth Moulton, Katherine Clark, Lori Trahan, Jim McGovern, Troy Carter, John Yarmuth, André Carson, Jan Schakowsky, Raja Krishnamoorthi, Mike Quigley, Chuy Garcia, Marie Newman, Robin Kelly, Bobby Rush, Cindy Axne, Kaiali'i Kahele, Michael San Nicolas, David Scott, Carolyn Bourdeaux, Lucy McBath, Nikema Williams, Hank Johnson, Jr., Frederica Wilson, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Ted Deutch, Lois Frankel, Darren Soto, Al Lawson, Jr., Eleanor Norton, Jahana Hayes, Rosa DeLauro, Joe Courtney, John Larson, Ed Perlmutter, Jason Crow, Diana DeGette, Sara Jacobs, Juan Vargas, Alan Lowenthal, Lou Correa, Katie Porter, Nanette Barragán, Mark Takano, Lucille Roybal-Allard, Linda Sánchez, Karen Bass, Norma Torres, Jimmy Gomez, Ted Lieu, Grace Napolitano, Pete Aguilar, Brad Sherman, Tony Cárdenas, Colin Allred, Eddie Johnson, Sylvia Garcia, Joaquin Castro, Sheila Jackson Lee, Veronica Escobar, Al Green, Steve Cohen, Jim Langevin, David Cicilline, Mike Doyle, Jr., Conor Lamb, Susan Wild, Chrissy Houlahan, Mary Scanlon, Madeleine Dean, Dwight Evans, Peter DeFazio, Earl Blumenauer, Suzanne Bonamici, Tim Ryan, Marcia Kaptur, Brian Higgins, Joe Morelle, Paul Tonko, Mondaire Jones, Jamaal Bowman, Ritchie Torres, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Adriano Espaillat, Carolyn Maloney, Jerry Nadler, Yvette Clarke, Hakeem Jeffries, Nydia Velázquez, Grace Meng, Gregory Meeks, Thomas Suozzi, Steven Horsford, Dina Titus, Teresa Fernandez, Bonnie Watson Coleman, Don Payne, Jr., Bill Pascrell, Jr., Tom Malinowski, Andy Kim, Donald Norcross, Ann Kuster, Alma Adams, Adam Schiff, Judy Chu, Julia Brownley, Salud Carbajal, Jimmy Panetta, Zoe Lofgren, Ro Khanna, Eric Swalwell, Barbara Lee, Mark DeSaulnier, Jerry McNerney, Doris Matsui, Mike Thompson, Jared Huffman, Ruben Gallego, Raul Grijalva, Ann Kirkpatrick, Terri Sewell, Joe Neguse
Date: May 27, 2021
Location: Washington, DC

Dear President Biden and Vice President Harris:

Thank you for your leadership in prioritizing the well-being of families and older adults
throughout the United States. We write to ask that the American Families Plan put forth a critical
investment in health care to bolster the security of our country's economy and families. By
prioritizing the inclusion of robust drug-pricing provisions, we can produce enormous federal
savings and use it to sustainably expand health coverage, equity, and access. As we emerge from
the COVID-19 pandemic--the nation's most acute health care crisis in the last century--now
more than ever, we must ensure that families and older adults are equipped with the health
coverage they need. Medicare is one of the most popular and foundational federal programs in
the United States. You have previously expressed commitments to expanding Medicare
eligibility, improving its benefits package, and empowering Medicare to negotiate with
pharmaceutical companies. As part of the American Families Plan, we respectfully request that
you fulfill your commitment to expand and improve Medicare by including the following key
provisions in the package:

● Expand Medicare by lowering the eligibility age.

● Improve Medicare benefits to include dental, vision, hearing, and an out-of-pocket cap.

● Empower Medicare to negotiate drug prices for all Americans.

Lowering the Medicare age would provide immediate coverage for millions of older adults who
are still uninsured or underinsured. Researchers at Stanford University found that there is a
sudden jump in the diagnosis of cancer among individuals who reach the age of 65 due to the
fact that many older adults delay care for financial reasons until they have Medicare coverage.1
Their study also concluded that individuals ages 61-64 "often lack insurance as a result of early
retirement, pre-existing conditions hindering renewal, the high cost of private insurance and
other causes." Additionally, up to 25 percent of adults in this age group become uninsured or
have experienced a gap in medical coverage prior to becoming eligible for Medicare. Lowering
the Medicare eligibility age to 60 could enable an additional 23 million people to access
Medicare coverage. Meanwhile lowering the Medicare eligibility to 55 could expand Medicare
coverage to over 40 million people.2 Expanding Medicare to these age groups is critical for
addressing inequities in health coverage and access, as communities of color and low-income
individuals are disproportionately more likely to be uninsured.

There is also a critical need to improve the traditional Medicare benefit to include dental, vision,
and hearing. According to the Commonwealth Fund, among Medicare beneficiaries, "75% of
people who needed a hearing aid did not have one; 70% of people who had trouble eating
because of their teeth did not go to the dentist in the past year; and 43% of people who had
trouble seeing did not have an eye exam in the past year."3 Poor oral health, vision loss, and
hearing impairment have been independently linked to numerous negative health outcomes, such
as diabetes, cardiovascular issues, depression and dementia.4 Lastly, research shows that half of
older adults who live alone don't have enough money to cover even their basic needs. Therefore,
it's past time that we place an out-of-pocket spending cap to traditional Medicare, just as we
have already for Medicare Advantage plans and other private insurance plans.5

Expanding and improving Medicare is not only good and critically-needed policy, it also has
support from overwhelming bipartisan majorities of the American people. According to a recent
Gallup poll, 65 percent of Americans, across party lines, are in favor of lowering the Medicare
eligibility age.6 Another poll found that 79 percent of polled older voters want a routine dental,
vision and hearing benefit added to Medicare.7

To pay for Medicare expansion, we believe Medicare and the federal government must finally be
able to negotiate with pharmaceutical companies to lower the high price of prescription drugs. The United States spends, by far, more on prescription drugs than any other country, despite
Medicare Part D being the largest purchaser in the world. The Congressional Budget Office
estimated Medicare could save over $450 billion and increase revenue by $45 billion over the
next decade by requiring Medicare to negotiate with pharmaceutical companies. Therefore, we
request that the savings achieved by robust Medicare drug-price negotiations be used to make
critical expansions and improvements to Medicare, alongside other bold investments in health
coverage and affordability.

Medicare has the largest network of providers in the country and is one of the most affordable
and accessible health insurance programs. Lowering the eligibility age and improving its benefits
package would provide immediate and substantial relief for millions of individuals throughout
the United States, as well as much-needed long-term security. Now is a historic opportunity to
also make an important expansion of Medicare that will guarantee health care for millions of
older adults and people with disabilities struggling with the health and economic realities of the
COVID-19 pandemic. Therefore, we are asking for you to prioritize the expansion and
improvement of Medicare in the American Families Plan. We strongly support this investment
and stand ready to help your Administration make it a reality.

Sincerely,


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