Earlier this week, the Senate passed a $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill, followed by a party-line approval of a $3.5 trillion budget blueprint for a reconciliation bill. According to Politico, the budget blueprint, or framework, instructs various committees to draft portions of the reconciliation proposal by September 15. The House of Representatives plans to take up the infrastructure bill and a reconciliation package – which is outlined in the budget blueprint but not yet in the form of a bill – together.
As noted by the New York Times, “[t]he blueprint sets in motion a perilous legislative process aimed at creating the largest expansion of the federal safety net in nearly six decades.” If taken up by the House, “committees in both chambers can begin work fleshing out [the Democratic party’s] vision for what would be the greatest change to social welfare since the 1960s’ Great Society.”
Among the health-related provisions of the topline budget blueprint are plans to add oral health, hearing, and vision coverage to Medicare – goals that the Center for Medicare Advocacy has long sought and supported. As noted by Inside Health Policy (Aug. 9, 2021), a memorandum from Senate Leader Schumer to Senators states that the list of items in the budget framework are “not final and not exclusive” meaning more proposals may be added as the package takes shape.
As outlined in a recent CMA Alert, the Center joined several other consumer advocacy organizations in sending a letter to Congress and the Administration recommending our priorities for strengthening Medicare, including:
- Add an Out-of-Pocket Cap to traditional Medicare
- Add a Comprehensive Oral Health Benefit
- Add Hearing Coverage (see related Alert this week)
- Expand Vision Coverage
- Reduce Prescription Drug Prices and Out-of-Pocket Costs
- Improve the Medicare Savings Programs’ (MSPs) Low-Income Protections
- Strengthen the Home Health Benefit
- Improve Chronic Care
- Improve Medigap enrollment options and coverage
The Center has issued an Action Alert urging individuals to contact their members of Congress to push for many of these goals, as well as a separate Oral Health Action Alert focusing specifically on adding an oral health benefit. We encourage you to contact your legislators as momentum builds for Medicare improvements.
August 12, 2021 – D. Lipschutz