3 Changes to Medicare Joe Biden Wants to Make: Will They Happen in 2023?

President Joe Biden has already accomplished a lot when it comes to Medicare, the federal health insurance program for Americans 65 and older.

After a big rise in Medicare Part B premiums in 2022, these same premiums are set to fall for the first time in more than a decade in 2023. Additionally, as part of Biden’s Inflation Reduction Act, the federal government can negotiate drug prices for some prescription drugs covered by Medicare, which many lawmakers have sought to do for many years.

But Biden came into his presidency with even greater ambitions for Medicare and would love to accomplish more this year. Let’s take a look at three changes Biden would love to make to Medicare in 2023 and whether they are possible.

1. Lower the eligibility age

Retirees must be at least 65 years old to qualify for Medicare. Biden would like to lower the eligibility age to 60 to boost healthcare coverage for those who may not be working at that age or who have inadequate coverage from their employer.

Image source: Getty Images.

The non-partisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimates that lowering the Medicare eligibility age to 60 would increase eligibility to about 15.6 million Americans, of whom roughly 87% would likely end up enrolling. The lower eligibility age would likely draw people from work health plans or Medicaid.

Biden has been vocal about this idea, and in September 2021, a cohort of 100-plus Democrats in the U.S. House of Representatives introduced legislation to pass such a measure. Since then, however, the bill hasn’t made any real headway at all.

Republicans now control the House, and the CBO estimates that dropping the Medicare eligibility age would increase the federal deficit. So the idea is likely to be unpopular among Republicans. That makes it pretty unlikely to pass unless the Democrats can find a way to do it without Republican votes.

2. Cover hearing aids

Nearly a quarter of retirees between the ages of 65 and 74 and more than half of seniors over 75 struggle with hearing loss, according to the National Institute of Deafness and Other Communication Disorders. But only a fraction of this group gets hearing aids because they are so expensive.

Biden would like to see Medicare cover hearing aids and associated services. Currently, it doesn’t cover hearing aids or exams for getting the aids fitted, meaning people must pay 100% out of pocket.

Biden and the Democrats actually came very close to getting this provision included in the original version of the Build Back Better Act proposed in 2021, which ended up not passing. Still, if any big bills get passed this year, I think the Democrats could potentially slip this provision in. Obviously, it’s a big if, but certainly not impossible.

3. Expand telehealth

Toward the end of 2022, Biden signed a $1.7 trillion omnibus spending bill into law just in the nick of time to avoid a limited government shutdown. Within this broad-based bill was a provision to extend certain coverage of telehealth services by Medicare. These include allowing telehealth visits for mental health without an in-person screening first and enabling providers to offer brief at-home hospital services. Telehealth services used by Medicare enrollees absolutely surged during the pandemic.

But the omnibus bill only extends these provisions until the end of 2024. Given the way the world has shifted, the Biden administration would likely have the appetite to expand these permanently if presented with the opportunity. Again, this is something that could make its way into a broader bill, as it just did with the omnibus spending bill. I wouldn’t rule it out in 2023.

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