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Sen. Bernie Sanders speaks to reporters

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) talks with reporters after the Senate Democratic policy luncheon in the Capitol on July 13, 2021. (Photo: Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images)

'Bottom Line,' Says Bernie Sanders, Deal Must Include Medicare Expansion, Lower Drug Prices

"That's what the American people want."

Jessica Corbett

As congressional leadership pushes Democrats to "act like we are winning" even as a few corporate-backed party members and business lobbyists water down the Build Back Better bill, Senate Budget Committee Chair Bernie Sanders reiterated Tuesday that the package must expand Medicare and include reforms to lower prescription drug prices.

"Congress must finally have the courage to stand up to the greed of Big Pharma."

"Bottom line is that any reconciliation bill must include serious negotiations on the part of Medicare with the pharmaceutical industry, lower the cost of prescription drugs," Sanders (I-Vt.) told reporters on Capitol Hill. "That's what the American people want."

Sanders also said that a "serious reconciliation bill must include expanding Medicare to cover dental, hearing aids, and eyeglasses."

While Sanders has pushed for the inclusion of such benefits and allowing Medicare to negotiate lower drug prices throughout the budget reconciliation process, his comments come a day after Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.)—who, along with Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.), has held up the package—made clear that he does not support expanding the federal healthcare program.

In a video shared on Twitter, Sanders took aim at the pharmaceutical industry's lobbying and campaign contributions to prevent policies like allowing Medicare to negotiate drug prices:

Sanders is set to deliver an address arguing that "we must end the greed of Big Pharma" at 8:00 pm ET Tuesday online at live.berniesanders.com.

Deborah Burger, a registered nurse and a co-president of National Nurses United, warned Tuesday in an opinion piece for Common Dreams that a failure by Democrats to expand Medicare or pass drug pricing reforms could lead to Republicans regaining control of Congress next year.

"All of the proposed provisions are enormously popular, as numerous polls have documented," Burger noted. "The Democrats face a daunting, at best, challenge to maintain their very thin hold on majorities in the Senate and House next November. The reasons are multiple, from voter suppression, to gerrymandered Congressional districts in the many states controlled by Republican legislatures and governors, to the historic record."

"Sens. Manchin and Sinema need to support Medicare expansion to ensure that older Americans receive the full healthcare they so desperately need—in West Virginia and Arizona as well as the rest of the country," Burger argued. "Doing so would both address a healthcare crisis as well as show the American people that the Democratic Party stands with them."

The Congressional Progressive Caucus (CPC) continued to send that message Tuesday, circulating a video about top priorities for the Build Back Better package, from the expanded child tax credit and climate action to affordable housing and the healthcare provisions:

"Medicare should cover your eyes, ears, and teeth. It's that simple," Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), chair of the CPC, tweeted Monday. "It's time to finally expand Medicare and guarantee seniors FULL coverage."

"Voters delivered Democrats the House, the Senate, and the White House," she added Tuesday. "Now it's our turn to deliver transformational change to people across America by passing the Build Back Better Act. Let's get this done!"


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