Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersOvernight Health Care — Presented by Carequest — Study finds Pfizer vaccine almost 91 percent effective for 5 to 11 year olds The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Uber - Manchin, Sanders in budget feud; Biden still upbeat Democratic frustration with Sinema rises MORE (I-Vt.) said Tuesday that adding dental, hearing and vision benefits to Medicare in Democrats' social spending package is "not negotiable," drawing a firm line on an issue progressives have been championing.
"This to me is not negotiable," Sanders said on a call with reporters. "This is what the American people want."
Rep. Pramila JayapalPramila JayapalWhich proposals will survive in the Democrats' spending plan? Proposals to reform supports for parents face chopping block Democrats see light at end of tunnel on Biden agenda MORE (D-Wash.), the chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, added that Sanders's view is also "the position of the House Progressive Caucus," adding further heft to the position.
Progressives have long been pushing for expanding the Medicare benefits in President BidenJoe BidenHow 'Buy American', other pro-US policies can help advocates pass ambitious climate policies Overnight Defense & National Security — Presented by Raytheon Technologies — Biden backtracks on Taiwan Photos of the Week: Manchin protestor, Paris Hilton and a mirror room MORE's Build Back Better package, but the new comments illustrate how key the issue is for them.
It adds to the complications for Democrats as they try to fit in an array of priorities while shrinking the overall size of the package below the original $3.5 trillion, given concerns from moderate senators.
There are other health care priorities with powerful backers competing for a limited amount of dollars.
Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiJudge to hear Trump's case against Jan. 6 committee in November Kamala Harris engages with heckler during New York speech GOP lawmaker calls for Meghan, Harry to lose royal titles over paid leave push MORE (D-Calif.), for example, is a major proponent of extending enhanced financial assistance to help people afford premiums under the Affordable Care Act.
And House Majority Whip Jim ClyburnJames (Jim) Enos ClyburnLobbying world Lawmakers pay tribute to Colin Powell Overnight Health Care — Presented by The National Council for Mental Wellbeing — Progressives: Medicare benefit expansions 'not negotiable' MORE (D-S.C.) is pushing hard for a provision to expand Medicaid in the 12 GOP-led states that have so far rejected the expansion.
The original House version of the package fully funded both the ACA and Medicaid provisions, but did not start Medicare dental benefits until 2028, a move that helps save money.
Sanders has criticized the House bill for waiting too long to begin the dental benefits.
He also noted that parts of the health care industry are opposed to the Medicare expansion provision. The American Dental Association, for example, has been pushing to target the provision only to low-income people, given concerns about lower payment rates for dentists under the Medicare program.
"I do understand that the health care industry does not like this idea, but maybe, just maybe, we stand with the American people," Sanders said.
"There are millions of seniors who have rotting teeth in their mouths or are unable to hear what their grandchildren are saying," he added.