Democrats in Congress have recently proposed a major expansion of Medicare. The proposal would add hearing, dental and vision benefits to the coverage offerings.
Some of these benefits are now available only through add-on Medicare Advantage plans, rather than the traditional Medicare program. Senators have also proposed lowering the Medicare eligibility age and placing a cap on out-of-pocket expenses, as well as allowing the Medicare program to negotiate lower prescription drug prices.
Professors and authors of ALM’s Tax Facts Robert Bloink and William H. Byrnes shared their opposing political views about using the latest spending proposal to expand Medicare benefits for older Americans.
Below is a summary of the debate that ensued between the two professors.
Bloink: Lowering the age of Medicare eligibility reflects the reality that many Americans were pushed into early retirement during the pandemic. Expanding Medicare will help those Americans who need help the most.
It also makes sense to expand Medicare to cover dental, vision and hearing benefits, which are vital to keeping older adults healthy longer and preventing more serious illness down the road. If we can do more to prevent Americans from getting sicker, we can actually save Medicare dollars in the long run.
Byrnes: We have limited federal funds to allocate to health care expansions and benefits. Lowering the Medicare eligibility age should be low on the list of priorities at this point — and really, the proposal has only a slim chance of passing. Age 60 is just as arbitrary as age 65, and we have to prioritize in these challenging times.