Biden says expanding Medicare to include hearing, dental and vision a ‘reach’

President Biden said Thursday that expanding Medicare to include hearing, dental and vision benefits would be a “reach” amid ongoing negotiations with Democrats over his sweeping economic agenda.

During a CNN town hall, Biden told anchor Anderson Cooper that Sens. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) — two key moderates at the center of ongoing negotiations about how to scale back Democrats’ reconciliation bill — are opposed to the expansion. 

“That’s a reach and the reason why it’s a reach — I think it’s a good idea and it’s not that costly in relative terms especially if you allow Medicare to negotiate drug prices,” Biden said. “But here’s the thing — Mr. Manchin is opposed to that as is, I think, Sen. Sinema.”

Biden explained Manchin’s opposition by saying he “doesn’t want to further burden Medicare … because it will run out of its ability to maintain itself in X number of years.” 

“Look, Joe’s not a bad guy. He’s a friend and he’s always at the end of the day come around and voted,” Biden said.

The president said there have been related discussions about potentially giving recipients a $800 voucher for dental work, but he said there has been less consensus on vision coverage.

Democrats have been wrangling over competing health care proposals as they look to scale back the sweeping spending package so that the price tag comes down from $3.5 trillion. Biden suggested in private meetings with lawmakers earlier this week that the final compromise bill would need to be around $2 trillion.

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) has been pushing for expanding Medicare to include hearing, dental and vision benefits and has called the provisions non-negotiable. Democrats are also discussing proposals that would expand coverage under Medicaid and the Affordable Care Act. 

Still, Biden expressed optimism about the prospect of a deal on a compromise package, though he wouldn’t predict when lawmakers and the White House would settle on an agreement. There was hope earlier this week that a breakthrough could be reached by the end of the week, but that seems unlikely as of Thursday.

Tags Bernie Sanders Joe Biden Joe Manchin Kyrsten Sinema

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