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Joe Biden proposes expanding Medicare eligibility and student debt relief

Janet Hook, Los Angeles Times on

Published in News & Features

WASHINGTON -- In a peace offering to progressives a day after Sen. Bernie Sanders quit the presidential race, Joe Biden announced support Thursday for an expansion of Medicare and education policies that move closer to his former rival's agenda.

Biden, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, proposed expanding government health insurance coverage by lowering the eligibility age for Medicare from 65 to 60.

The former vice president also called for forgiving college debt for low- and middle-income borrowers at public colleges and universities as well as at minority-focused private institutions.

Both proposals are less expansive than Sanders' campaign proposals, which would provide Medicare for citizens of all ages and cancel student debt for all borrowers regardless of income. But they go further than Biden's previous plans, and he gave Sanders credit for inspiring his new policies.

"Senator Sanders and his supporters can take pride in their work in laying the groundwork for these ideas, and I'm proud to adopt them as part of my campaign at this critical moment in responding to the coronavirus crisis," Biden said in a Medium post.

It is not clear how much the proposals will help Biden win over Sanders supporters. The senator's campaign press secretary, Briahna Joy Gray, said on Twitter that "Joe Biden's plan is inadequate" and should be changed to win the trust of young voters.

 

The proposals are the latest of several steps Biden's campaign has taken to reach out to the party's progressive wing over the last month as he has come closer to clinching the nomination.

The effort has taken on urgency now as Biden seeks to unify the party after a long primary battle. Many of the Vermont senator's followers view Biden as too centrist and tied to a discredited establishment.

In previous policy overtures, Biden embraced bankruptcy reform policies backed by Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, another progressive former rival for the 2020 nomination. He proposed a Sanders-inspired plan to provide free tuition at public and community colleges, but to a more limited population.

And he embraced Warren's proposal to forgive $10,000 in student loan debt for every borrower to provide relief amid the coronavirus outbreak.

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