Former Vice President Joe Biden released plans to expand Medicare eligibility and forgive some student debt as he works to unite a fractured Democratic base behind his presumptive 2020 presidential nomination.
Biden announced Thursday he would lower the Medicare eligibility age to 60 and forgive federal student debt for low-income and middle-class people who attended public colleges and universities, historically black colleges and universities (HBCU), and underfunded minority-serving institution (MSI).
Under Biden’s plan, Americans would have the option of opting into Medicare when they are 60 or stick with the plans provided by their employers. The proposal is intended to complement Biden’s overall health care plan to provide a public option to any American who wants it while expanding the Affordable Care Act.
Biden’s student debt plan calls for forgiving all federal undergraduate student loans from two- and four-year public colleges and universities and any private HBCUs or MSIs for debt-holders earning up to $125,000. The plan builds on Biden’s existing student loan plan to cancel $10,000 of student debt per person, forgive federal student loans after 20 years and more.
A Biden administration would pay for the student debt plan by repealing the “excess business losses” tax cut in the recently passed $2.2 trillion coronavirus relief package.
The former vice president said in a statement he will be releasing further details for his proposals “in the future.”
Both expanding health care and student debt are priorities for progressives, who have vociferously advocated for policies like scrapping all student debt and “Medicare for All.”
While Biden, who has cast his campaign as an effort to return “normalcy” to the White House, is not expected to adopt such plans outright, he has already worked to make overtures to liberal skeptics. The former vice president has embraced Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s (D-Mass.) student debt plan and Sanders’s idea to make public colleges and universities free for families whose income is below $125,000.
“I see you, I hear you, and I understand the urgency of what it is we have to get done in this country. I hope you will join us. You are more than welcome. You’re needed,” Biden said in a message to Sanders’s supporters after the Vermont senator suspended his presidential bid.