Hey, let’s raise the Medicare age!

Badgered on all sides by yon lean and hungry Cantor and the teabagger caucus, Speaker John Boehner makes a counteroffer to the White House, and as Wonkblog’s Sarah Kliff explains, there are a lot of reasons why his proposal to raise the Medicare age is a bad one (even if Jacob Lew, rumored to be the next secretary of the Treasury, is said not to have a problem with it):

House Speaker John Boehner has made his counter-offer on deficit reduction and, as my colleague Lori Montgomery reports, it floats the idea of raising the Medicare eligibility age from 65 to 67.


This isn’t a new idea: It’s come up in a lot of deficit reduction proposals of years past, as economists and legislators stare down a Medicare program eating up a growing chunk of the federal budget.


The idea has, however, gained a bit more traction since the Affordable Care Act passed. If the Medicare age were raised, the thinking has gone, the 3.3 million 65- and 66-year-olds would still be guaranteed access to health coverage through the tax subsidies. The lowest-income seniors — those earning less than 133 percent of the federal poverty line – would qualify for Medicaid.


That’s the upside. Health care economists see a number of downsides, too. For one thing, Medicare tends to be a pretty efficient program. Its costs have grown slower than private health insurance plans. The Center for Budget Priorities and Policy estimates that, while the federal government would save $5.7 billion, the rest of the health care system would end up spending $11.4 billion more to provide those same benefits.


Seniors themselves would end up spending $3.7 billion more as the benefits on the exchange would be less robust than those currently covered through Medicare. Employers would end up footing part of the bill, too, continuing to sponsor an additional two years of coverage.


That $2.5 billion in orange on the chart above comes from increasing the premiums that a lot of other people pay for their health insurance coverage. The Kaiser Family Foundation estimates that moving these seniors into the health insurance exchanges would increase premiums there by 3 percent, as the larger insurance pool absorbs a patient population that tends to be older and sicker than its younger counterparts.


Medicare premiums likely would go up too. These seniors would be the more expensive enrollees on the exchange. But when it comes to Medicare, they’re the least expensive patients, the younger population with fewer health care needs than, say, the 90-year-old cohort.


There’s also concern that these seniors might not even have an option should the eligibility age get raised as some states do not plan to expand their Medicaid programs. That could leave any senior who earns less than 133 percent of the federal poverty line — about $15,000 for an individual — without any coverage option at all.

Not to mention that many, many specialists refuse to take Medicaid patients — a real hardship for the elderly.

4 Responses to Hey, let’s raise the Medicare age!

  1. imhotep December 4, 2012 at 10:34 am #

    Bonehead did grow an itty-bitty spine yesterday. (Disregard his proposal on debt reduction because he knew it wasn’t going anywhere.) Bonehead stripped 4 of the most conservative Republican House members of their committee assignments. A warning to other Republican House members that unless they fell in line they too would suffer his wrath. Bonehead’s move caused conservative (Fascist) Republican organizations like The Club for Growth (Stephen Moore & Pat Toomey (R-PA), FreedomWorks (which Dick Army quit yesterday) and Grover Norquist’s Americans for Tax Reform to go crazy. They all put out statements telling Bonehead that he was going to pay a heavy price for his “disloyalty.” (Disloyalty to whom?) Elections have consequences. Especially when you vote a straight Democratic ticket.

  2. jawbone December 4, 2012 at 11:13 am #

    Hey, Boner’s got an idea! Let’s fuck up both Medicare and ACA by raising the Medicare age by two years!

    Gotta love these DC ideologue idiots.

  3. ts December 4, 2012 at 1:41 pm #

    Offer…counter-offer? What the hell kind of bullshit is this? And please don’t say ‘This is how it’s done.’ This is bullshit, plain and simple. Why are we playing along?

  4. Middle Molly December 4, 2012 at 6:54 pm #

    “Seniors themselves would end up spending $3.7 billion more as the benefits on the exchange would be less robust than those currently covered through Medicare. Employers would end up footing part of the bill, too, continuing to sponsor an additional two years of coverage.”

    Another reason for employers to dump or refuse to employ people as they get older.

    As it is, the employment participation rate of people 65-69 went down quite a bit after Medicare was implemented and as Social Security started to kick into high gear in the 60’s and 70’s. It bottomed out in the mid 80’s with only about 10% of people 65+ working. It stayed in the 11-12% range until the recession of 2000. And then it started to go up and it has continued to go up even as the economy has improved. It is now up to 17.5%, the highest it has been since 1964.

    When old people HAVE to work, something is really wrong. This is NOT a good trend. The number of people 65+ who are unemployed is now around 500,000, the largest number of unemployed people EVER in that age range, even as the number of unemployed people in other age ranges has decreased (though some of this is due to Baby Boomers passing into that 65+ age bracket.)

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