Senate Dems aim to offer dental, hearing and vision to Medicare as part of $3.5T infrastructure deal

Senate Democrats announced late Tuesday the framework for a $3.5 trillion infrastructure package that will expand Medicare to offer dental, hearing and vision benefits.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer announced the deal Tuesday. It is in addition to a $1.2 trillion bipartisan package that addresses several infrastructure priorities.

Democrats hope to vote on the package in the coming weeks. It will be passed via reconciliation, a procedural move that allows budget bills to be approved in the Senate by a simple majority and bypass a legislative filibuster.

More healthcare items could be added to the $3.5 trillion package, the exact details of which remain unknown.

House Democrats are hoping to add legislation to grant Medicare the power to negotiate lower drug prices. The House will take up both infrastructure bills after they pass the Senate, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has said.

But an expansion of benefits for Medicare has been a longtime priority for Democrats and Schumer, who tweeted in June that the lack of those benefits leaves a “gaping hole” in Medicare coverage.

It remains unclear how much additional spending the new benefits will add to the program. A 2019 analysis from the Kaiser Family Foundation found that almost two-thirds of beneficiaries, 37 million people, do not have any dental coverage.