Former Vice President Joe Biden appeared to offer an olive branch to supporters of Sen. Bernie Sanders with highly centrist proposals to reform Medicare and student debt.
Sanders, who vowed to try to amass as many delegates as possible to influence the Democratic Party platform despite formally suspending his campaign on Wednesday, ran on expanding Medicare to all Americans and canceling all student debt. Biden on Thursday offered new proposals seemingly aimed at addressing both issues but in a far, far more limited way.
Biden’s response to Sanders’ Medicare for All proposal is to lower the Medicare eligibility age from 65 to 60.
“This would make Medicare available to a set of Americans who work hard and retire before they turn 65, or who would prefer to leave their employer plans, the public option, or other plans they access through the Affordable Care Act before they retire. It reflects the reality that, even after the current crisis ends, older Americans are likely to find it difficult to secure jobs,” the campaign said in a Medium post. “Any new Federal cost associated with this option would be financed out of general revenues to protect the Medicare Trust Fund.”
While Biden’s proposal would treat people over 60 the same as current Medicare recipients, Hillary Clinton, in her bid to appeal to Sanders backers in 2016, proposed allowing people over 50 or 55 to buy into Medicare.
Biden also appears to have embraced parts of Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s student debt proposal, now calling for a plan to forgive federal student debt for undergraduate tuition for people who earn up to $125,000, “with appropriate phase-outs to avoid a cliff.”
“The federal government would pay the monthly payment in lieu of the borrower until the forgivable portion of the loan was paid off. This benefit would also apply to individuals holding federal student loans for tuition from private HBCUs and MSIs,” the campaign said.
The proposal is in addition to Biden’s proposals to cancel a minimum of $10,000 of student debt per person and forgive loans after 20 years without any tax burden.
“I would finance this new student debt proposal by repealing the high-income ‘excess business losses’ tax cut in the CARES Act. That tax cut overwhelmingly benefits the richest Americans and is unnecessary for addressing the current COVID-19 economic relief efforts,” Biden said.