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Dec. 7, 2021, 9:48 a.m. EST

How would ‘Medicare for All’ affect my health care and finances?

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Alex Rosenberg

This is reprinted by permission from

“Medicare for All” has long been a rallying cry for progressive Democrats, hitting a peak during the 2020 presidential campaign, but since taking office President Joe Biden has not thrown his weight behind the proposal, opting instead to call on Congress to expand benefits for current Medicare recipients.

Backers still hold out hope for a broader plan, and a 2021 Medicare for All bill has been proposed in the House of Representatives, but there are no signs yet it will move beyond committee.

Some experts and advocates say that while Biden’s proposed Medicare changes fall short of universal eligibility, they might pave the way for more significant reform in the future.

“Joe Biden did not run on Medicare for All, but in a lot of ways, the question is, ‘What lays the groundwork for the establishment of a national health insurance program?’” says Dr. Abdul El-Sayed, former executive director of the Detroit Health Department and co-author of “Medicare for All: A Citizen’s Guide.”

Biden’s proposed  Medicare  reforms could be “important steps on the pathway” toward Medicare for All, El-Sayed says. Details are still in flux, but the package could include:

  • Adding dental, hearing and vision coverage.

  • Lowering the  Medicare eligibility age  from 65 to 60.

  • Enabling the federal government to negotiate for lower prescription drug prices.

In a 2021  NerdWallet survey , respondents favored broadening coverage to include dental, hearing and vision (53%) and negotiating lower drug prices (54%). Support was much lower for various options to lower the eligibility age: Just 23% were in favor of lowering it to 60, for example.

Gerald Friedman, professor of economics at the University of Massachusetts Amherst and author of “The Case for Medicare for All,” also speaks hopefully about incremental changes. “We’ve got to do something different than just going out there saying we want improved Medicare for All now and won’t take anything else,” Friedman says. “I think the incremental approach is the way,” he says. “By building capacity, by demonstrating competence, it’s the way forward.”

The idea of Medicare for All was much discussed during the 2020 campaign, but it isn’t always well understood, and can mean slightly different things under different proposals. If eventually adopted, how different would your health care and your finances look? Here are answers to some common questions about Medicare for All, as defined by the most recent congressional proposal.

Is Medicare for All universal health care?

Yes. “Under Medicare for All, everybody in the country would be in this one program,” Friedman says, adding, “The government would be the payer, and everybody would be enrolled.”

Medicare for All would effectively replace the existing health insurance coverage in the United States today. “The core that defines Medicare for All is a national health insurance program that is comprehensive,” El-Sayed says, “meaning it covers every single American — everybody in, nobody out.”

See : What ‘Medicare for All’ would do to the health-care sector

What services would Medicare for All cover?

Medicare for All “would provide every single person access to the comprehensive set of health care services in this country,” El-Sayed says. That’s actually much more than Medicare covers today.

“The current Medicare system has gaping holes,” Friedman says. He points out that, for example, Medicare does not currently cover most vision, dental or hearing care. “It also does not have an out-of-pocket cap,” he adds, “which every other insurance program does.”

press release  from the office of Rep. Pramila Jayapal, chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus and author of the Medicare for All Act of 2021, describes how Medicare for All would expand coverage:

“The Medicare for All Act builds upon and expands Medicare to provide comprehensive benefits to every person in the United States. This includes primary care, vision, dental, prescription drugs, mental health, substance abuse, long-term services and supports, reproductive health care and more.”

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