Biden releases plans to expand Medicare, forgive student debt

Former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenPresidents and 'presidents' Biden to blast Trump's church photo op in Philadelphia speech Rudy Giuliani calls on Cuomo to remove Bill de Blasio MORE released plans to expand Medicare eligibility and forgive some student debt as he works to unite a fractured Democratic base behind his presumptive 2020 presidential nomination.

Biden announced Thursday he would lower the Medicare eligibility age to 60 and forgive federal student debt for low-income and middle-class people who attended public colleges and universities, historically black colleges and universities (HBCU), and underfunded minority-serving institution (MSI).

The proposals mark an initial olive branch to supporters of Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersFive things to watch in Tuesday's primaries Nina Turner responds to Cornel West's remarks about George Floyd COVID-19 pandemic will shrink economy by trillion in next decade: CBO MORE (I-Vt.), some of whom have expressed skepticism at Biden’s centrist brand of politics and were dismayed when the Vermont progressive withdrew from the race Wednesday. Biden specifically referenced Sanders’s advocacy for the two issues in a Medium post announcing his plans.

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“I believe that as we are being plunged into what is likely to be one of the most volatile and difficult economic times in this country’s recent history, we can take these critical steps to help make it easier for working people to make ends meet,” Biden wrote. “Senator Sanders and his supporters can take pride in their work in laying the groundwork for these ideas, and I’m proud to adopt them as part of my campaign at this critical moment in responding to the coronavirus crisis.” 

Under Biden’s plan, Americans would have the option of opting into Medicare when they are 60 or stick with the plans provided by their employers. The proposal is intended to complement Biden’s overall health care plan to provide a public option to any American who wants it while expanding the Affordable Care Act.

Biden’s student debt plan calls for forgiving all federal undergraduate student loans from two- and four-year public colleges and universities and any private HBCUs or MSIs for debt-holders earning up to $125,000. The plan builds on Biden’s existing student loan plan to cancel $10,000 of student debt per person, forgive federal student loans after 20 years and more. 

A Biden administration would pay for the student debt plan by repealing the “excess business losses” tax cut in the recently passed $2.2 trillion coronavirus relief package.

The former vice president said in a statement he will be releasing further details for his proposals “in the future.”

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Both expanding health care and student debt are priorities for progressives, who have vociferously advocated for policies like scrapping all student debt and “Medicare for All.”

While Biden, who has cast his campaign as an effort to return “normalcy” to the White House, is not expected to adopt such plans outright, he has already worked to make overtures to liberal skeptics. The former vice president has embraced Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenGeorge Floyd's death ramps up the pressure on Biden for a black VP Judd Gregg: Biden — a path to the presidency, or not Vogue's Anna Wintour urges Biden to pick woman of color for VP MORE’s (D-Mass.) student debt plan and Sanders’s idea to make public colleges and universities free for families whose income is below $125,000.

“I see you, I hear you, and I understand the urgency of what it is we have to get done in this country. I hope you will join us. You are more than welcome. You’re needed,” Biden said in a message to Sanders’s supporters after the Vermont senator suspended his presidential bid. 

However, Biden may still face obstacles in winning over progressives, who sounded the alarm Wednesday that the former vice president may struggle with the younger voters that buoyed former President Obama’s two campaigns but did not come out in force for Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonSessions accepts 'Fox News Sunday' invitation to debate, Tuberville declines The Memo: Trump lags in polls as crises press Biden savors Trump's latest attacks MORE in 2016.

“Messaging around a ‘return to normalcy’ does not and has not earned the support and trust of voters from our generation. For so many young people, going back to the way things were ‘before Trump’ isn’t a motivating enough reason to cast a ballot in November,” eight groups wrote in an open letter to Biden. “We need a vision for the future, not a return to the past.”