Presumptive Democrat nominee Joe Biden announced new plans to expand Medicare eligibility and forgive some student debt as he adapts his policy platform ahead of the Nov. 3 presidential election to take into account the pandemic hit to the economy.
Biden said in a Medium post on Thursday that he would lower the age for Medicare eligibility to 60, at which point people would have the option of sticking with their employer plans or opting into Medicare.
“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,” Biden wrote.
He said the proposal takes into account the likely scenario that after the COVID-19 crisis ends, older Americans may have a hard time finding a job.
Any new federal costs associated with the new proposal would come out of the Medicare Trust Fund, he said.
Regarding student debt, Biden said he would forgive federal student loans for low-income and middle-class people who attended public colleges and universities, historically black colleges and universities (HBCU), and underfunded minority-serving institutions (MSI).
“Under this plan, I propose to forgive all undergraduate tuition-related federal student debt from two- and four-year public colleges and universities for debt-holders earning up to $125,000, with appropriate phase-outs to avoid a cliff,” he wrote.
Biden’s new student debt proposals build on his existing plan to cancel $10,000 of student debt per person, forgive federal student loans after 20 years, and let people who make less than $25,000 per year forego monthly payments without accruing interest.
The money to pay for the additional student debt relief would come from repealing the “excess business losses” tax cut in the recently passed $2.2 trillion COVID-19 emergency bill signed into law on March 27.
Justifying his new proposals, Biden said, “I believe that as we are being plunged into what is likely to be one of the most volatile and difficult economic times in this country’s recent history, we can take these critical steps to help make it easier for working people to make ends meet.”
Biden also faces one of the most important decisions of his five-decade political career: choosing a running mate who would become vice president.
“We’re still going to be in crisis or recovery, and you want a vice president who can manage that,” said Karen Finney, a Democratic strategist who worked for Hillary Clinton’s 2016 campaign, according to The Associated Press. “This seems like a much more important decision than usual.”
If he wins, the 77-year-old Biden would be the oldest American president in history.
Biden holds a 5.9 percent lead over President Donald Trump, according to an aggregated general election poll compiled by RealClear Politics.