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Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios

Medicare helps to reduce racial and ethnic disparities and close gaps in insurance coverage, a new study in JAMA Network shows.

Why it matters: This raises the possibility that expanding the program could further reduce health disparities — a timely idea, as Senate Democrats debate lowering the Medicare eligibility age and broadening its benefits.

What they found: Medicare access at age 65 sharply reduced the share of Black and Hispanic people reporting poor health and poor access to care, but not mortality, the study notes.

  • Respondents were "significantly more likely" to be insured immediately after age 65 compared to before turning 65, and coverage increased more for Black and Hispanic adults than white adults.
  • Medicare eligibility alone doesn't completely eliminate disparities among the elderly, suggesting other social determinants of health need to be addressed.

State of play: Senate Democrats have signaled that they'll attempt to expand Medicare to include dental, hearing and vision coverage in the coming months.

  • Although lowering the Medicare eligibility age from 65 to 60 wasn't included in their original proposal, Axios has reported it's still possible that the measure gets included.

Go deeper

Democrats' historic compromise on prescription drug prices

Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios

Democrats have agreed on a top-level deal that would allow Medicare to negotiate the prices of some drugs. But moderates and pharma allies successfully took some of the bite out of the party's preferred approach.

Why it matters: If the deal ultimately becomes law, Democrats will be able to claim victory on what's been a major priority for years, and many Americans struggling to afford their medication would receive relief.

Democrats reach drug-pricing deal

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer addresses reporters on Tuesday. Photo: Mandel Ngan/AFP via Getty Images

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer announced Tuesday that Democrats have reached a deal on lowering Medicare prescription drug prices — an omission that had stalled support for President Biden's $1.75 trillion social spending plan.

Why it matters: Democrats have run on lowering drug prices for years. If the agreement is finalized, it'll allow them to tell voters that they've fulfilled their promise.

Pharmaceutical industry may avoid big losses in drug pricing deal

Illustration: Lazaro Gamio/Axios

The pharmaceutical industry is voicing opposition to the latest drug pricing deal.

Yes, but: The details matter. And the details as they stand suggest drug companies would still retain the power to set prices, and most drugs wouldn't be subject to government price negotiations.