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Democrats Dropped Medicare Dental and Vision Coverage From Their Social Spending Bill. Voters Say It’s Their Top Priority

Congressional Democrats are scrambling to finalize the details of their social spending package as they eye a floor vote this week, but key health policy measures remain in flux — and new Morning Consult/Politico polling shows voters’ No. 1 priority for the bill is a health proposal that’s no longer in the mix.

What the numbers say:

  • Across political parties, voters’ top priority for the bill is adding dental and vision benefits to Medicare, which was cut from the White House’s latest framework after intense pushback from dental groups and amid concerns about the price tag. Still, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) indicated he is trying to work Medicare coverage for dental and vision services back into the final bill.
  • Among the 18 provisions listed in the poll, voters’ second-highest priority is funding for home health care for seniors and people with disabilities, followed by Medicare drug price negotiation. Those two measures, which were included in the most recent White House proposal, rank above non-health care provisions such as funding for affordable housing and free community college, which have about as much voter support as adding hearing benefits to Medicare.
  • After months of gridlock, congressional Democrats are working on a compromise to allow Medicare to negotiate the prices of some prescription drugs, but the measure is expected to be much less far-reaching than one previously passed by the House. Even so, voters say it’s imperative that Medicare price negotiation is included in the bill: It’s a must-have for 34 percent of voters, including 32 percent of Republicans.
  • One of the bill’s big Medicaid measures is relatively popular, too: 21 percent of voters ranked a plan to offer subsidized health insurance to low-income people in states that have not expanded Medicaid among their top five priorities for the bill. The coverage would expire after four years, but lawmakers like Sen. Raphael Warnock (D-Ga.) pushed for the Medicaid workaround to be included in the bill as a way to curb racial health disparities, given most of the 4.4 million Americans in the so-called coverage gap are people of color.
  • Extending the expanded Affordable Care Act premium tax credits — which the White House estimates will affect 9 million people — is the lowest-ranking of all the health measures included in the poll, with 16 percent of Democrats and 8 percent of Republicans saying it should be a top-five priority for the social spending bill.

The poll was conducted Oct. 30-Nov. 1, 2021, among 1,996 registered voters, with a margin of error of 2 percentage points.