Senate takes first step toward crafting $3.5T package that includes new Medicare benefits, drug pricing reforms

Capitol building in Washington
After passage of a budget resolution, Senate committees will now craft legislation on key healthcare priorities to be included in a $3.5 trillion infrastructure package. (Photo by rarrarorro/iStock/Getty Images Plus/Getty Images)

Senate Democrats’ efforts to give Medicare drug pricing negotiation authority and add benefits to the program cleared a major hurdle on early Wednesday morning.

The Senate passed 50-49 with one senator not voting a budget resolution that sets up a $3.5 trillion infrastructure package expected to include key health priorities focusing on Medicare and the Affordable Care Act.

Democrats laid out their priorities in the $3.5 trillion package, including adding dental, hearing and vision benefits to Medicare. Democrats also hope to give Medicare the power to negotiate lower drug prices and make permanent enhanced subsidies for the Affordable Care Act that are currently going to expire after the 2022 coverage year.

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Passing the budget resolution is a critical step for the procedural move called reconciliation, which allows budget bills to clear the Senate via a simple majority and bypass the 60 votes needed to clear a legislative filibuster.

The resolution gives Senate committees a topline number for them to meet when crafting legislation.

Now each committee will develop legislation for their part of the package, which will likely be considered in September.