WASHINGTON -- Democrats are moving closer to an agreement after months of negotiations on the policies and programs that will be included in President Joe Biden’s huge plan to expand safety net programs and combat global warming.
It is likely that the plan will include an increase in Medicare benefits for seniors, universal pre-school, and continuation of a child credit that was extended earlier this year to more families. The Democrats are reducing some investments and shortening the timeline for when these programs would be available to fit within an estimated $2 trillion budget over 10 year rather than the $3.5 billion budget plan approved by the House earlier.
Still, Democrats hope that the programs will be so popular that Congresses in the future will continue funding them. It is unlikely that any Republican would support the measure.
The child tax credit would be increased for another year. Democrats raised the tax credit from $3,000 for children aged 6-17 to $3,600 for children 5 years and younger as part of a COVID relief legislation. Many of the program's backers would be disappointed if it was limited to one year. However, they hope that the program's popularity will encourage Congress to continue to extend it over the next years. Budget hawks fear that a one year extension will reduce the program's cost on paper but hide its true costs. This is because lawmakers are more inclined to keep programs running than to let them expire.
Medicare would now include hearing, vision, and dental aids. It is not clear when or for how long each item would be covered by Medicare. Each is expected to survive. The possibility of offering vouchers for seniors to get dental care is being discussed by lawmakers. This will be until the full benefit can be enacted. After meeting with Biden, Rep. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.) stated that "What will emerge" is a program for hearing, vision, and dental care that Senator Bernie Sanders approves of.
The plan still includes expanding Medicaid in approximately 12 states and subsidizing plans that lower premiums under Obamacare. According to the Congressional Budget Office, the bill's health insurance provisions would result in a drop of 3.9 million uninsured people over the next ten years. Partially offset by the large increases in Medicaid and Affordable Care Act would be 2.8 million less employment-based coverage.
The U.S. will join a growing list of countries that offer paid family leave programs, which allow workers to take time off to give birth, care for a newborn child, or deal with serious health issues of family members. It appears that the 12-weeks of paid leave Biden proposed could be reduced to four.