Proponents of Democrats’ push to lower the Medicare eligibility age to 60 say there’s good reason to do so despite costs that would come with it.
Currently, Medicare eligibility begins at age 65. Lawmakers in Congress want to see that age lowered to 60. Advocates say there’s clear reason as health outcomes of those who fall between 60 and 64 are worse than other developed nations.
That’s because individuals can become retirement eligible long before hitting 65. However, for a variety of reasons — remaining in the workforce might not be a possibility. As result, loss of medical insurance is common.
To avoid it, lawmakers say it’s time to lower the age of Medicare eligibility to 60.
What do supporters of lowering the age say?
Many view this as another flavor of ‘Medicare For All’ with focus on the increased health outcomes of expanding the existing Medicare program. Lowering the eligibility age to 60 would cost approximately $380 billion over the next decade. While that sounds like a lot, it would also reduce cost to Affordable Care Act insurers, because the 60-64 group is the most-expensive to insure.
Essentially, the plan is similar to shuffling expense around to ensure that coverage is maximized — and fewest individuals are left out. The 60-64 group also sees an unusually high number of uninsured people — because the cost is simply too great for those on a budget.
This is problematic for health outcomes. When people forgo healthcare for several years at that stage of life — it has a long-lasting effect on future healthcare costs.
Around 3.9 million people would be covered under the Medicare’s expansion.
What do opponents of lowering the age say?
Opponents of Medicare expansion say the program cannot handle added burden. Between the cost and 20 million added beneficiaries over the next decade it could result in worse coverage.
There’s also the argument that this is a step toward a single-payer healthcare system, which has long been touted as the ideal scenario for all Americans. At least from the perspective of progressive Democrats who want to see the government take over the costly game of providing health insurance.
There’s another issue: What if employers drop coverage of 60-64 year olds as response to the policy change? That would inflate the cost of the eligibility reduction from $200 billion to $1.8 trillion.
To be clear, there are some serious risks to expanding Medicare. However, it may not matter as Democrats move forward with a proposal in the Biden Administration’s $3.5 trillion spending plan.
What would it cost to expand Medicare?
Approximately 3.9 million people would gain health insurance through the expanded program at a cost of $9,756 to $57,912 per newly covered individual. This is one of the points that plays into the hands of opponents of Medicare expansion. It would simply cost too much for the actual benefit offered.