Journalists with inside information on the Obama administration are floating the idea of raising the age of Medicare eligibility from age 65 to age 67. They say this would be a small price to pay in return for a grand bargain with Republicans in Congress to raise taxes on incomes above $250,000 from 35 percent to 37 percent.
This is a terrible idea, but that’s not a reason why President Obama won’t propose it, or that it won’t go through.
As these charts show, people—especially poor people— do postpone needed medical treatment because they can’t afford it.
I know of people myself, many of them laid off from their jobs in middle age, who are postponing medical treatment until they reach age 65 and become eligible for Medicare. The life expectancy of people at age 65 is about 15 or 20 years. Cutting two years out of their coverage would be a 10 to 15 percent cut. I suppose such people are invisible if everybody you know is a white-collar professional with a college education and good employer-paid health insurance. It is different for people in ill health who are on their feet all day in jobs in places such as Wal-Mart
As a negotiating position, raising the Medicare age doesn’t make any sense. President Obama would be selling out the interests of elderly poor people and while at the same time giving up on his mild proposal to restore the Clinton era tax rates. The explanation is that the President accepts the Washington consensus that it is necessary to cut “entitlements.” By offering entitlement cuts as part of a grand bargain, he can finesse the deal and bring Democrats along. The great thing about bipartisan agreements is that nobody is responsible.
I think that cutting entitlements is President Obama’s goal. He offered to raise the age of Medicare eligibility in negotiations in 2011. I think he believes he is being a statesman who sees beyond the narrow interests of his constituents. But whatever it is, the only way to stop it is for working people to notify their congressional representatives that this is unacceptable.
Click on Is Obama Selling Us Out on Medicare? for Joan Walsh’s misgivings in Slate.
Click on The fiscal cliff deal becomes clearer for Ezra Klein’s trial balloon in the Washington Post.
Click on Go Ahead, Raise the Medicare Retirement Age for Jonathan Chait’s trial balloon in New York magazine.
Click on Jonathan Chait’s Miserable Endorsement of Raising the Medicare Eligibility Age for David Dayen’s rebuttal on FireDogLake.
Click on Raising Medicare retirement age would cost patients twice as much as it would save the government for Matthew Yglesias’ analysis for Slate.
Click on Medicare Eligibility Age on the Table? for Adele Stan’s thoughts in the Washington Monthly.
Click on Raising the Medicare Eligibility Age Isn’t Harmless for analysis by Dr. Aaron Carroll in the Incidental Economist. [Added 12/11/12]
For President Obama in 2011, click on Obama Offered to Raise Medicare Eligibility Age As Part of Grand Debt Deal from the Huffington Post. If this isn’t something he wants to do, why does he keep bringing it up?
Hat tip to Owen Zidar for the top three charts.
[Afterthought 12/12/12] What we should be talking about is lowering the age for Medicare, since it is far and away a more cost-effective and comprehensive system for providing medical care than the for-profit health insurance system.