Schumer backs Sanders push on drug prices, lowering Medicare age

Schumer backs Sanders push on drug prices, lowering Medicare age
© Greg Nash

Senate Majority Leader Charles SchumerChuck SchumerBiden 'encouraged' by meeting with congressional leaders on infrastructure Republicans welcome the chance to work with Democrats on a bipartisan infrastructure bill Cheney sideshow distracts from important battle over Democrats' partisan voting bill MORE (D-N.Y.) said in an interview published Friday that he supports measures to allow Medicare to negotiate drug prices, as well as lowering the Medicare eligibility age and creating a public health insurance option. 

The comments from Schumer give important backing to a push from progressives, who have been calling for a range of major health care reforms from President BidenJoe Biden28 Senate Democrats sign statement urging Israel-Hamas ceasefire Franklin Graham says Trump comeback would 'be a very tough thing to do' Schools face new pressures to reopen for in-person learning MORE, including in his next major economic package, which he laid out for Congress during a joint address on Wednesday night. 

Schumer specifically pointed to conversations he has had with Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersMusk's SpaceX has a competitive advantage over Bezos' Blue Origin New York, New Jersey, California face long odds in scrapping SALT  Warren calls for US to support ceasefire between Israel and Hamas MORE (I-Vt.). 


“Bernie Sanders and I agree on this,” Schumer told The.Ink. “I believe we should be negotiating — we just talked about this at some length; he and I must talk almost every single day — Medicare negotiating with the drug companies and using that money to expand Medicare.”

Asked about reducing the Medicare eligibility age or a public option to compete alongside private health insurers for people of all ages, Schumer replied, “Yeah, I'd be for either of those, both of those.”

He left some wiggle room, however, on how exactly the measures would move through Congress or whether they would receive a vote in the Senate. 

“Well, we're going to push it,” he said. “It's too early. I want to pass the biggest, boldest bill that, of course, we can pass. And we’ve got to figure all that out. We're going to try to fight hard to try to get these in the bill.”

Sanders has been pushing in particular for legislation to allow Medicare to negotiate lower drug prices, and then using the savings to expand Medicare benefits to cover dental, vision and hearing, and lower the eligibility age to 55 or 60. 

Despite a push from a wide range of Democratic lawmakers, Biden left those measures out of his American Families Plan, though he did separately issue a call for action in his congressional address. It is possible lawmakers will add some of those measures into Biden’s plan as it moves through Congress, a prospect boosted by Schumer’s new comments. 

Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy Pelosi28 Senate Democrats sign statement urging Israel-Hamas ceasefire Lawmakers bicker over how to go after tax cheats House Republican: 'Absolutely bogus' for GOP to downplay Jan. 6 MORE (D-Calif.) is a major proponent of action on drug pricing, though she has put a focus on extending enhanced Affordable Care Act financial assistance more than expanding Medicare eligibility.