Medicare expansion included in Senate Democrats' $3.5 trillion spending framework: 5 things to know

Senate Democrats on July 13 reached an agreement to pursue a $3.5 trillion spending plan that includes the expansion of Medicare. 

President Joe Biden is expected to discuss the budget resolution on Capitol Hill on Wednesday, as the Senate Budget Committee reached an agreement on the budget late Tuesday night. 

Here are five things for healthcare leaders to know about the Senate Democrats' agreement and next steps: 

1. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said in a July 13 news conference that the package contains a "robust expansion" of Medicare, expanding the federal health insurance to include dental, hearing and vision benefits for recipients. 

2. Mr. Schumer didn't specify whether the plan includes a proposal to lower the eligibility age for Medicare from 65 to 60 or a separate proposal to lower prescription drug prices, both progressive demands for healthcare. 

3. The top-line figures are set, but not the policies themselves. While the Budget Committee shaped the early resolution package, lawmakers still need to hold separate votes on all of its details, including tax changes or Medicare adjustments.

4. Democrats plan to use the budget reconciliation tool to further the passage of the plan through the 50-50 Senate. This is the same tactic the party used to advance the Affordable Care Act in 2010. In the Senate, reconciliation bills aren't subject to filibuster, and the scope of amendments is limited. Instead of needing 60 votes, a reconciliation bill only needs a simple majority in the Senate.

5. The committee's drafted plan comes as a companion to a bipartisan $1 trillion infrastructure plan in progress in the Senate to strengthen U.S. roads, bridges, pipes, ports and Internet connections. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D.-Calif., has said the House won't take up the infrastructure bill until the Senate also passes the Democratic package, according to The Wall Street Journal.

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