Hundreds of US doctors wrote to leaders of the Democratic Party on Capitol Hill and the White House this week, urging them to lower the eligibility age for Medicare in the upcoming infrastructure bill set to be passed through budget reconciliation measures.
In the letter, released by the Committee to Protect Health Care, more than 800 physicians and other health professionals urged President Joe Biden, Speaker Nancy Pelosi, and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer to include legislation in the reconciliation package shifting the eligibility age for Medicare from 65 to 60.
Doing so would make millions more Americans immediately eligible for healthcare through Medicare, and would represent a major legislative achievement for Democrats on the issue of health care after Republicans famously failed to repeal the Affordable Care Act during the Trump administration and promptly ceased any major efforts to pass health care legislation.
Shifting the Medicare eligibility age would also mean that the millions of Americans ages 60-64 would see much more affordable means of obtaining health care should they not have a job, a prospect that could allow some to retire while most would see their health care expenses drop significantly.
“[T]he COVID-19 pandemic has only underscored how catastrophic tying health care access to employment can be. Even as many of our patients return to work, those aged 60 to 64 can struggle to secure positions, particularly those that offer insurance”, reads the letter.
“One in 10 adults, Black and Latino/Hispanic people, sicker and older Americans, and lower-income and uninsured people are delaying care because of unaffordable costs. And the number of people who put off health care because of costs has gone up in recent years”, it continued.
The issue is seen as a top priority for congressional progressives such as Sen Bernie Sanders, who has championed the issue along with expanding Medicare to cover dental, vision and hearing care expenses.
Pharmaceutical companies have launched a major lobbying effort against the issue, and have poured millions into ads urging Congress to keep the program the same.
Rob Davidson, an emergency medical physician in western Michigan and the president of the Committee to Protect Health Care, told The Independent that the upcoming reconciliation package currently valued around $3.5 trillion was a “golden opportunity” for Democrats to make a serious move to expand Medicare.
“Granting [Medicare benefits] to millions of people aged 60-64 would help save lives, reduce overall health care costs, and strengthen families at this critical time for our country”, he said.