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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 SchumerDemocrats urge Biden to extend moratorium on student loan payments White House draws ire of progressives amid voting rights defeat Murkowski to vote 'no' on voting rights 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 BidenSchumer vows to advance two-pronged infrastructure plan next month Biden appoints veteran housing, banking regulator as acting FHFA chief Iran claims U.S. to lift all oil sanctions but State Department says 'nothing is agreed' 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 SandersSenators say White House aides agreed to infrastructure 'framework' Briahna Joy Gray: Biden is keeping the filibuster to have 'a Joe Manchin presidency' On The Money: Biden to fire FHFA director after Supreme Court removes restriction | Yellen pleads with Congress to raise debt ceiling MORE (I-Vt.). 

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“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 PelosiSchumer vows to advance two-pronged infrastructure plan next month Senators say White House aides agreed to infrastructure 'framework' Tim Cook called Pelosi to say tech antitrust bills were rushed 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.