Manchin shutting down Sanders on Medicare expansion

Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) on Monday shut down one of Senate Budget Committee Chairman Bernie Sanders’s (I-Vt.) biggest priorities, expanding Medicare, which Manchin warned would undermine the solvency of the broader program.

Sanders insisted in a tweet Saturday that his proposal to expand Medicare to cover dental, hearing and vision must be included in a budget reconciliation package that is likely to come in well below the $3.5 trillion price tag Democratic leaders initially envisioned.

But Manchin on Monday threw cold water on Sanders’s push to expand Medicare, warning the program faces insolvency in 2026.

“My big concern right now is the 2026 deadline [for] Medicare insolvency and if no one’s concerned about that, I’ve got people — that’s a lifeline. Medicare and Social Security is a lifeline for people back in West Virginia, most people around the country,” Manchin warned.

“You’ve got to stabilize that first before you look at basically expansion. So if we’re not being fiscally responsible, that’s a concern,” he added.

That’s going to cause a problem with Sanders, whose vote is also essential to getting the budget reconciliation bill passed through the 50-50 Senate.

“The expansion of Medicare to cover dental, hearing and vision is one of the most popular and important provisions in the entire reconciliation bill. It’s what the American people want. It’s not coming out,” Sanders tweeted over the weekend.

But Medicare’s board of trustees warned in a report to Congress at the end of August that the estimated depletion date for Medicare’s hospital insurance trust fund is 2026. Furthermore, spending on Medicare is expected to rise from 4 percent of gross domestic product to 6.2 percent by 2045.

Manchin raised Medicare’s dim fiscal future as a major concern and a big reason not to expand it now, when the federal budget deficit is expected to hit $3 trillion for this year alone, according to the Congressional Budget Office.

“I’ve always said that I believe that government should be your best partner, but it shouldn’t be your provider. We have a moral obligation to provide to those who have incapacities such as physical or mental. But everyone else should be able to help and chip in and all that. So that’s my mindset,” he said.

Manchin also raised concern about a proposal being pushed by Sens. Raphael Warnock (D-Ga.) and Jon Ossoff (D-Ga.) to create a new Medicaid-style program to extend health insurance benefits to low-income people in states that didn’t expand Medicaid coverage under the Affordable Care Act.

Manchin said he felt the proposal would be unfair to states such as West Virginia that expanded Medicaid coverage under the Affordable Care Act but have to pick up 10 percent of the added cost of expanding the program.

He said that under the Warnock-Ossoff proposal, states participating in the new program wouldn’t have to pick up any cost. “I’m trying to understand that better,” he said.

Manchin argued that the states that opted out of the Affordable Care Act’s expansion of Medicaid could still participate in the program.

“There’s an understanding that we’re trying to look at that in a way is not an expansion. It’s basically a service, it’s so supposed to be all 50 states,” he said.

He argued that it would be unfair for states that declined to participate in the Affordable Care Act’s Medicaid expansion to get all of their costs covered by the federal government.

“The problem with that one right now we’re paying 90-10. So 10 percent is being paid for all the states. For states that held out to be rewarded 100 percent is not fair,” he said. 

Tags Bernie Sanders Build Back Better Joe Manchin Jon Ossoff Medicare Raphael Warnock

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