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Sen. Bernie Sanders speaks at a rally

U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) speaks during a September 21, 2021 People's Action rally protesting pharmaceutical companies' lobbying against allowing Medicare to negotiate lower prescription drug prices, outside Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA) headquarters in Washington, D.C. (Photo: Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images)

Sanders Crafts Amendment to Close 'Holes' in Medicare That 'Are Harming Seniors'

"Adding dental, vision, and hearing benefits to Medicare is supported by 84% of the American people," said an aide to the senator, who plans to propose including the expansion in Democrats' reconciliation package.

Brett Wilkins

U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders will offer an amendment to the Democrats' revived reconciliation bill that would affirmatively answer activists' demands to expand Medicare benefits, the senator's office told Common Dreams on Friday.

"Today, in the wealthiest country in the world, it is shameful that so many of our seniors must go without the dentures, eyeglasses, and hearing aids that they need."

Sanders' office said the Vermont independent will seek a roll call vote on including the overwhelmingly popular proposal to extend dental, hearing, and vision coverage to all Medicare beneficiaries, provisions that were previously stripped from Democrats' once-ambitious $3.5 trillion reconciliation package.

Now with key Democrats breathing fresh life into the recently moribund bill they nearly killed—albeit in favor of a dramatically shrunken package—Sanders is again pushing for the Medicare expansion he has long championed.

"Today, in the wealthiest country in the world, it is shameful that so many of our seniors must go without the dentures, eyeglasses, and hearing aids that they need," the senator's office explained.

Healthcare reform advocates have long called for expanding Medicare. Ideally, the popular program would be reformed or reinvented to cover everyone's needs under a universal, single-payer system. However, with Medicare for All still a distant goal in the United States, progressives have honed in on expanding Medicare to achieve more coverage for more people, especially seniors most in need.

"The holes in Medicare coverage are harming seniors as we speak," Sanders and Congressional Progressive Caucus Chair Pramila (D-Wash.) wrote in a joint June 2021 analysis of a Data for Progress poll showing 83% of likely U.S. voters of all political affiliations back Medicare expansion.

The lawmakers continued:

Researchers at Johns Hopkins University found that mild hearing loss doubled dementia risk. Poor oral health and untreated gum disease also leads to increased serious risk of heart attacks, strokes, rheumatoid arthritis, and worsened diabetes. And aging takes a toll on vision, leading to injury, cognitive impairment, and depression...

In the richest country in the world, the outrageous reality is that 75% of senior citizens who suffer from hearing loss do not have a hearing aid because of the prohibitive cost. Sixty-five percent of senior citizens have no dental insurance and no idea how they will be able to afford to go to a dentist.

"Combined, the lack of Medicare dental, vision, and hearing coverage put America's seniors at risk for a host of serious health conditions," Sanders' office told Common Dreams. "If Congress cares about our nation's seniors, we must expand the Medicare program to cover dentures, eyeglasses, and hearing aids."

Common Dreams also reported this week that Sanders will file additional amendments to the reconciliation bill that would end subsidies for fossil fuel companies and strengthen the proposed legislation's drug price provisions


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