Health & Fitness

Biden outlines plan to expand U.S. health programs as part of broad domestic spending bill

U.S. President Joe Biden speaks about the status of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) vaccinations and his administration’s ongoing pandemic response in the State Dining Room at the White House in Washington, May 4, 2021.

Jonathan Ernst | Reuters

The White House on Thursday unveiled a new plan to expand several federal health-insurance programs to lower costs to consumers as part of President Joe Biden’s broader $1.75 trillion domestic spending package.

Biden plans to expand Medicare and Medicaid — the federal health insurance programs for the elderly and poor — as well as the Affordable Care Act, more commonly known as Obamacare, according to a fact sheet released by the White House.

Under the expansion, Medicare would provide hearing benefits.

Biden’s plan would also provide tax credits to up to 4 million uninsured Americans in states that have not expanded Medicaid under the ACA. He also plans to reduce premiums for some 9 million people who get coverage through the ACA by an average of $600 per person.

Notably, there was no mention of prescription drug pricing reform, a policy Democrats and some Republicans have announced strong support for in the past. Dental and vision benefits for Medicare recipients were also absent from the plan.

Here’s what the plan said:

  • Strengthen the Affordable Care Act and reduce premiums for 9 million Americans. The framework will reduce premiums for more than 9 million Americans who buy insurance through the Affordable Care Act Marketplace by an average of $600 per person per year. For example, a family of four earning $80,000 per year would save nearly $3,000 per year, or $246 per month, on health insurance premiums. Experts predict that more than 3 million people who would otherwise be uninsured will gain health insurance.
  • Close the Medicaid coverage gap, leading 4 million uninsured people to gain coverage. The Build Back Better framework will deliver health-care coverage through Affordable Care Act premium tax credits to up to 4 million uninsured people in states that have locked them out of Medicaid. A 40-year-old in the coverage gap would have to pay $450 per month for benchmark coverage — more than half of their income in many cases. The framework provides individuals $0 premiums, finally making health care affordable and accessible.
  • Expand Medicare to cover hearing benefits. Only 30% of seniors over the age of 70 who could benefit from hearing aids have ever used them. The Build Back Better framework will expand Medicare to cover hearing services, so that older Americans can access the affordable care they need.

Biden is scheduled to deliver remarks on the plan at 11:30 a.m. ET, before departing for a week of summits in Europe.

The announcement comes after haggling over how to pay for the plan threatened to further delay the Build Back Better agenda. Still, the caucus managed to coalesce around a handful of revenue raisers broadly aimed at big business and those Americans who make more than $400,000 annually.

— CNBC’s Christina Wilkie and Thomas Franck contributed to this report.

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