Posts Tagged ‘Medicare eligibility age’

Will Obama sell out seniors on Medicare?

December 10, 2012

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.


Bipartisan bad idea: Delaying Medicare eligibility

August 21, 2012

Both President Barack Obama and Governor Mitt Romney are reported to be toying with the idea of raising the Medicare eligibility age from 65 to 67, along with Social Security.  This is a bad idea.  It will save the government money, but it will not save the public money.  Instead it will shift the cost to individuals and private businesses.

Medicare delivers health insurance at a lower cost than private insurance.  That is because it doesn’t siphon off part of its revenue as profits for owners and shareholders, and because it doesn’t hire actuaries to figure out who to disqualify because they’re unhealthy.  The Center for Budget and Public Priorities did a study that showed that raising the Medicare eligibility age will actually raise the cost of health insurance because of the ways it will shift the burden.

That is assuming that the people who are disqualified from Medicare for two years will get health care and health insurance from other sources.  Many of them probably won’t.  When you’re laid off from your job in your 50s, as many people have been, it is unlikely that you’re going to get a new job with health insurance benefits.  It’s not certain you’re going to get a new job at all.  I know of people who put off getting medical checkups or certain medical treatments until they become eligible for Medicare.  Raising the eligibility age will mean more people without coverage waiting longer.

Click on Raising Medicare Eligibility Age Would Increase Costs, Not Reduce Them for the full report of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.

Click on Obama Offered To Raise Medicare Eligiblity Age As Part of a Grand Debt Deal for a report by Sam Stein for Huffington Post.

Click on Romney Adviser Says GOP Would Extend Medicare Solvency By Raising Eligibility Age for a report by Aviva Shen for Think Progress.

Click on Raising the Age of Medicare Eligibility for a summary of a report by the Kaiser Foundation.

Savings from raising Medicare eligibility age

August 27, 2011

Senator Joseph Lieberman has proposed saving money on Medicare by raising the age of eligibility from 65 to 67, and President Obama has indicated he is open to such a plan.

The red circle represents the annual Medicare budget.  The blue sliver represents the estimated saving to the federal government from Senator Lieberman’s proposal.

If the federal government raised the eligibility age for Medicare from 65 to 67, it would save $5.7 billion in 2014, the Kaiser Family Foundation estimates.  While that is a very large number, it is less than 1 percent of $643.4 billion, the Medicare trustees’ estimate of their budget for 2014.

There is more to the story.  Kaiser Family estimates that the 65-year-olds and 66-year-olds who are no longer eligible for Medicare would spend $3.7 billion of their own money on health insurance premiums and medical bills in 2014, and employers would spend an added $4.5 billion for employees and retirees who are no longer eligible for Medicare.  Since both Medicare and the health insurance exchanges would cover a slightly older and unhealthier population, premiums would go up an estimated $2.4 billion.

The total:  Private individuals and companies would have to spend an added $11.4 billion to offset the $5.7 billion reduction in the government’s Medicare budget.

There’s still more.  A study indicates that once you become eligible for Medicare, your chances of surviving a serious illness improve by 20 percent.

So the only thing that would be accomplished by Senator Lieberman’s proposal is to enable certain politicians to say they’re tough—tough, that is, on the old, sick and vulnerable, not the rich and powerful.

An article in the Fall 2009 issue of the Stanford Social Innovation Review explained the study that showed Medicare reduces the death rate from serious illness.  The original article is behind a pay wall, but I found a copy on an unrelated web site.