Schumer backs Sanders push on drug prices, lowering Medicare age

Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.)
Greg Nash

Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (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 Biden, 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 Sanders (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 Pelosi (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.

Tags American Families Plan Bernie Sanders Biden address Biden address to Congress Charles Schumer Chuck Schumer Joe Biden Medicare Medicare expansion Nancy Pelosi prescription drug prices prescription drugs public option

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