White House hopeful Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) on Friday unveiled a plan to guarantee the “right to a secure retirement” as he seeks to burnish his progressive bona fides amid stiffening competition in the Democratic primary.
The plan, announced ahead of a discussion at campaign seniors issues roundtable and the AARP Presidential Forum in Iowa this weekend, builds off of several of Sanders’s existing proposals, including “Medicare for All,” slashing drug prices and expanding social security.
“Yes, we can live in a country where every senior lives in dignity and security, and does not have to choose between paying for basic necessities like medicine, food, or housing. We will do this by guaranteeing every American the right to a secure retirement, the opportunity to age in place in the community, and by expanding and improving Medicare to include dental, hearing and vision care,” Sanders wrote.
Beyond implementing Medicare for All and expanding it to include dental, hearing and vision coverage, Sanders’s health care plan will offer seniors supports and services at home “without waitlists, asset and income restrictions, and other barriers.”
Sanders said he would bolster collective bargaining rights of home care workers and enact a “domestic workers bill of rights” to ensure safe working conditions, hoping to attract 7.8 million home health and personal care aides by 2026.
Sanders goes on to promise an expansion of the 1965 Older Americans Act that would seek to create a new office within the Administration for Community Living to study social isolation among seniors and its impact and provide grants to states and municipalities to address the issue.
The plan would also expand the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program to guarantee heating and cooling assistance, bolster the Commodity Supplemental Food Program to combat hunger among seniors and cap credit card interest rates at 15 percent and curtail the practices of loan sharks to protect seniors from “scams and predatory financial practices and instruments.”
Senior voters will play a crucial role in the 2020 presidential race. Voters aged 65 years and older went for President Trump over Hillary Clinton by 52-45 percentage points, according to exit polls, and hold outsized sway in the crucial swing state of Florida.
The plan’s introduction comes as Sanders faces an increasingly competitive challenge from Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) for the presidential primary’s progressive mantle. Warren has unveiled a slate of plans intended to reduce racial and economic inequities and has co-sponsored legislation to secure Americans’ retirement accounts.
A poll released Friday shows Sanders and Warren tied for second place in the primary behind former Vice President Joe Biden.