Bidens Proposal to Expand Medicare
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Many Democratic candidates have had ideas to expand Medicare or healthcare. So, of course, Biden has a plan to make changes to the healthcare system. If victorious, Democratic Presidential Candidate Joe Biden and his running mate Kamala Harris plan to expand the United States’ Medicare program. With this proposed expansion come questions about the future of health care.
Does Joe Biden Support Medicare for All
Earlier in the 2020 Presidential race, “Medicare for All” was talked about often. The proposal by former candidate Bernie Sanders attracted both support and skepticism.
Now that Biden is the official Democratic Presidential nominee, many people wonder if a Biden/Harris White House would implement Medicare for All. Biden doesn’t mention the proposal in his plans. However, he says he intends to provide Americans with a choice for public health insurance similar to Medicare.
The goal of the “Biden Plan” is to protect and expand the Affordable Care Act. Biden helped sign this Act, commonly known as Obamacare, into law as Vice President under the Obama administration in 2010.
Dental, vision, and hearing benefits aren’t currently covered under Original Medicare. Biden has stated that his public health option would cover these three benefits. At present, many people sign up for a Medicare Advantage program to receive these benefits.
Bidens Proposal to Expand Medicare to age 60: Pros, Cons, and Questions
For the Medicare program itself, Biden has proposed lowering the eligibility age from 65 to 60. Enrollment would be optional for the first five years. This would give people between the ages of 60 and 64 a new option to buy insurance through Medicare or keep group coverage from their employer. The pandemic has left many people in this age range unemployed and uninsured, and the job market is more difficult for them.
Medicare at 60 is less costly than previous proposals to expand it to people ages 50 and over, or to all Americans. Still, some questions arise with this proposed reduction in the eligibility age.
Enrollment in Bidens Proposal to Expand Medicare
Lowering the age to 60 would provide the health care option to more people. It’s not yet clear, though, how enrollment would look. It also hasn’t been stated whether any penalties would be associated with enrolling after age 60. Presently, those without creditable coverage who don’t enroll when they’re first eligible need to pay late penalties through increased premiums.
Would Medigap at 60 Be Available?
Medigap plans provide coverage for the 20% of costs that Original Medicare doesn’t cover. At present, beneficiaries can use the Open Enrollment Period to choose a Medigap plan to begin simultaneously with their Part B. During this time; their health doesn’t impact their acceptance into a Medigap plan.
Biden hasn’t yet stated how Medigap plans would work under his revisions. It’s not clear how the Medigap premiums of people aged 60 through 64 would be affected. It’s also unknown whether they’ll still not have access to a Medigap plan before they turn 65. If the latter is the case, a large percentage of people wouldn’t have access to extra coverage for five years.
The Hospital Insurance Trust Fund Needs to Be Addressed
Most people who have aged in are eligible for premium-free Part A if they have paid into it while working at least 40 quarters. This money goes to the Hospital Insurance Trust Fund. The Hospital Insurance Trust Fund pays for Part A and is why most don’t have to pay their premiums.
A looming issue that comes with the suggestion to reduce the eligibility age is that the Hospital Indemnity Trust Fund is at risk of becoming insolvent. This means it might not have enough revenue to cover its expenses (meaning Part A premiums) in just a few years. Experts originally predicted this would happen in 2026, but the pandemic has acted as an additional strain on the trust fund.
If the eligibility age lowers, there would be a greater need for the Hospital Indemnity trust fund to be well-funded. More people would need Part A coverage.
Biden’s Plan for Prescription Drug Prices
Biden has also discussed plans to reduce the costs of prescription drugs for those on Medicare. Negotiation of drug prices by the government is currently prohibited by law, but Biden wishes to allow it if he is elected. Doing so is estimated to save hundreds of billions of dollars in the current decade. However, research and development could suffer from this.
Also in Biden’s plans is to stop drug prices from rising beyond inflation. Like Trump, Biden hopes to cap out-of-pocket costs for prescription drugs under Part D.
What Does Bidens Proposal to Expand Medicare Mean for 2021?
The rules and details would need to accommodate those aging in at 60. There would also need to be a clear understanding of how Medigap would work in this scenario. The premiums for the public option for dental, vision, and hearing would need to be able to compete with existing ancillary plans. Lastly, whether Biden or Trump is inaugurated in 2021, the Hospital Indemnity trust fund will need to be addressed.