Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

Sen. Chuck Schumer speaks in Brooklyn.

Sen. Chuck Schumer speaks in front of The Brooklyn Public Library in Brooklyn, N.Y. on June 19, 2021. (Photo: John Lamparski/Getty Images)

Schumer Backs Sanders' Proposal to Include Dental, Hearing, and Vision Care in Medicare

"With the current Medicare platform, those three things are just left out, like it's no big deal," said the Democratic leader. "But it is a big deal and we should fix it."

Julia Conley

Following calls from progressives to include an expansion of Medicare in the infrastructure bill being negotiated in Congress, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer announced late Sunday his support for covering dental, vision, and hearing care under the popular 56-year-old program, backing a proposal long pushed by Sen. Bernie Sanders.

"With the current Medicare platform, those three things are just left out, like it's no big deal. But it is a big deal and we should fix it," Schumer told reporters at a news conference. 

Schumer's statement echoed recent remarks by Sanders, who last week tweeted, "I do not think it is too radical an idea to say that keeping teeth in your mouth should not be a luxury," and highlighted how the introduction of Medicare in 1965 ended earlier healthcare injustices in the United States.

"Now, in 2021, we can continue to fulfill the promise of Medicare," Sanders said.

"I do not think it is too radical an idea to say that keeping teeth in your mouth should not be a luxury."
—Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.)

The progressive push for a bolder and much more comprehensive infrastructure plan stands in stark contrast to the paltry proposal put forth by a bipartisan group of centrist, more corporate-friendly Senators.

Schumer's support for the more expansive vision for infrastructure—a plan that would be ushered through the reconciliation process in the Senate by Sanders, chair of the Budget Committee—comes days after more than 100 healthcare, faith, and labor groups called on the majority leader and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) to include Medicare expansion in the American Families Plan, the Biden administration's infrastructure package.

The organizations said by including robust drug price negotiation in the American Families Plan, lawmakers could reinvest savings in vision, dental, and hearing care for Medicare recipients.

"Let's keep expanding Medicare until it covers everyone for everything," said the advocacy group Healthcare Now, which supports Medicare for All, following Schumer's statement.

According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, only about a quarter of Medicare beneficiaries have dental coverage, and their benefits "frequently come with additional premiums, cost sharing, and limits on the amount of coverage."

"If you talk to family medicine or primary care doctors, they will tell you with certainty that ignoring medical issues related to dental, vision and hearing often devolves into far more serious medical problems for people—especially seniors—that cost more to treat and are harder to remedy," said Schumer on Sunday.

The Democratic leader said lawmakers will have to "galvanize public support" for the proposal in order to pass a far-reaching infrastructure package including investments in healthcare, childcare, and education through reconciliation, which would allow Democrats to pass the package with a party-line vote if the entire caucus backs it. 

The National Poll of Healthy Aging last year found that 93% of senior citizens supported including dental coverage in Medicare. Meanwhile, according to the Senior Citizens League, 79% of older voters said in 2018 that all three types of healthcare should be included in the program.

The larger infrastructure plan favored by Sanders and other progressives also includes tax increases for the wealthiest Americans to pay for infrastructure spending and investments that would help working people, a proposal which is also popular with a majority of Americans.

Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.

This is the world we live in. This is the world we cover.

Because of people like you, another world is possible. There are many battles to be won, but we will battle them together—all of us. Common Dreams is not your normal news site. We don't survive on clicks. We don't want advertising dollars. We want the world to be a better place. But we can't do it alone. It doesn't work that way. We need you. If you can help today—because every gift of every size matters—please do. Without Your Support We Simply Don't Exist.

Please select a donation method:

Poll: Overwhelming Majority of US Voters Want Robust Regulation of Tech Companies

"When it comes to Big Tech's monopoly power and surveillance business model, the public is unified: They want action. They want to see the Big Tech companies broken up and users' privacy protected."

Brett Wilkins ·

228 Republicans Blasted for Brief Urging Supreme Court to Overturn Roe v. Wade

"Every single politician who signed this amicus brief is actively working to strip away our fundamental freedoms and endanger pregnant people and families across the country."

Jessica Corbett ·

'Historic Victory': Bayer to End US Residential Sales of Glyphosate-Based Herbicides

"As agricultural, large-scale use of this toxic pesticide continues, our farmworkers remain at risk. It's time for EPA to act and ban glyphosate for all uses."

Kenny Stancil ·

73 Major Corporations Paid Just 5.3% Federal Tax Rate Between 2018 and 2020: Report

Thirty-nine other companies paid no federal corporate tax during the three-year period, in which they collectively reaped over $120 billion in profits.

Brett Wilkins ·

Biden Asks Congress to Act to Prevent Evictions—Just 3 Days Before Moratorium Expires

"These calls should have come weeks ago, not 72 hours before the moratorium expires."

Jake Johnson ·