3 Reasons Why We Should Raise Medicare's Eligibility Age

Raising the current Medicare eligibility age of 65 by two months each year until the eligibility age reached 67 in 2027 would reduce the federal budget deficit by $148 billion over the next 10 years, according to a report released by the Congressional Budget Office this week. That's not pocket change, but in the context of a decade of federal spending and $15 trillion in government debt, it's not a whole lot either. But the real reasons to raise the age have less to do with short-term savings and more to do with the necessity of long-term entitlement changes.

1) Raising the retirement age would encourage more people to work and keep their job-based health insurance until they're older. In addition to reducing the cost of the program, that contributes to a more thriving economy and a broader tax base. Granted, according to the CBO, this effect would be small, but partly because the health insurance subsidies in ObamaCare mean that lots of individuals would retire anyway and purchase subsidized insurance through the state-based exchanges that are scheduled to go into effect in 2014. But if ObamaCare is repealed, the effect would be larger. 

2) It would save more money in the long run. Fiscally, the more important effects of raising the retirement age show up down the road. By 2035, CBO estimates that Medicare spending would be reduced by about 5 percent relative to what it would be otherwise. Given the program's explosive projected growth and its singular burden on the long-term budget, a 5 percent reduction in projected spending seems like a significant and worthwhile gain in return for an mild, decidedly incremental change. 

3) Raising the Medicare eligibility age would make additional reforms easier. The most important likely effect is political. Reforming Medicare is difficult in part because of resistance by beneficiaries, who hold a lot of political influence; indeed, the fact that some beneficiaries might have to pay more for their insurance (CBO estimates that nearly all would still end up insured) is the primary argument cited by opponents of raising the eligibility age object to the change. That people who benefit from a program like it and/or get financial rewards from it, however, is not much of an argument for refusing to accept reforms, especially with an obviously unsustainable entitlement like Medicare. Diminishing the size of the beneficiary class is likely to diminish resistance to further change, and while it's not enough, it might ultimately make reform easier. 

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  • Apatheist||

    This is an instance were I will definitely let the good be the enemy of the still pretty bad. I will not vote for any federal politician who doesn't support letting me opt out of MC/SS. Kicking the can down the road measures like raising the eligibility age are worthless for those of us who will still be alive when we catch up to the can again.

  • ||

    I see it differently. If we were able to raise the eligibility age, it would serve to dispel the myth that entitlements are untouchable. After that (or even before that), begin means testing.

  • rather||

    3 reasons?

    #1 No
    #2 Enough
    #3 Money?

  • GroundTruth||

    Keep raising it, and Socialist Insecurity, at that rate till they 70, then drop it to one month per year till it's more than anyone's age in the country. It will take time, but it will eventually result in a phaseout of two of the most nonsensical programs in history.

  • TONY||

    FROZEN ELDERLY CORPSES IN THE STREEETZ!#@$!#@!^#%$

  • tarran||

    I am amazed that people are ignoring a far more critical regulatory change:

    Stop confiscating the social security benefits of people who decline to enroll in medicare!

    On March 21, 2011, Federal District Court Judge Rosemary Collyer dismissed a two-and-a-half year lawsuit that sought to allow people receiving Social Security benefits to opt out of Medicare Part A.

    Under the current rule, any retiree who opts out of Part A also forfeits all past and future Social Security retirement benefits. This means that seniors would stop receiving a Social Security check and would be required to repay any benefits received prior to disenrolling from Part A. The lawsuit, known as Hall v. Sebelius, was originally filed Oct. 9, 2008 and alleges that three provisions in the Social Security Administration’s Program Operations Manual System, an SSA handbook designed for internal use by SSA employees in processing claims, are illegal.
  • ||

    I didn't know about this. This would seem to be a no brainer to let those that can afford to opt out, do so (while keeping their SS benefits if needed).

  • GroundTruth||

    This is a sick joke, right?

  • There is no "we"||

    4) Once Dems are able to hang this rotted albatross around the neck of the GOP, the GOP will go the way of the Whigs. And Good Riddance to Bad Rubbish.

  • juris imprudent||

    Howling band of hAARPies descend upon Suderman and HnR in 3, 2, 1...

  • Tony||

    I know all the commenters hate old people, but you too, Suderman?

  • Brett L||

    Too old to polish the floor, too tough to make decent leather from their hides, too slow to hunt.

  • ||

    Do you ever not argue by appealing to demagogy? The eligibility age for Social Security is already being slowly increased to 67 (it reaches 67 in 2027...i.e. for anyone born after 1960). Why not Medicare?

    BTW, Obama offered to do this very thing in his "grand debt deal", so even he sees the light on this issue. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/.....94833.html

  • cynical||

    Ron Paul is old.

  • ||

    Consider a variation on Single Payer, which works well in most of the industrialized world and costs less in GDP than the employee-based insurance company sinkhole.

  • tarran||

    Consider eliminating laws against selling insurance across state lines, putting employer paid insurance on the same tax regime as privately purchased insurance and stop regulating lodge practice out of existence, and the problem goes away without the freedom-killing budget-busting single-payer system.

    I am, again, amazed that people have forgotten the crisis at the begining of the 20th century which the FEderal Governemnt was called to solve: medical care cost too little.

    How Government Solved the Health Care Crisis: Medical Insurance that Worked — Until Government "Fixed" It
    by Roderick T. Long

    Today, we are constantly being told, the United States faces a health care crisis. Medical costs are too high, and health insurance is out of reach of the poor. The cause of this crisis is never made very clear, but the cure is obvious to nearly everybody: government must step in to solve the problem.

    Eighty years ago, Americans were also told that their nation was facing a health care crisis. Then, however, the complaint was that medical costs were too low, and that health insurance was too accessible. But in that era, too, government stepped forward to solve the problem. And boy, did it solve it!
  • GroundTruth||

    Consider the clear and original meaning of the 9th and 10th amendments, as well as the oh-so-tired commerce clause.

    No. The Feds have NO business in health care. Period.

  • o3||

    means test PLUS raise the age to reflect Y2K actuarials.

  • ||

    Wow! We actually agree on something.

  • juris imprudent||

    Must be a spoofer.

  • robc||

    Not sure why the medicare age didnt go up the same time that the social security age did. Or why the SS age increase stopped.

  • robc||

    On a related topic, I got my approval for my new health insurance today (it starts on Jan 15):

    $135 per month. Not bad, not bad at all. And people say health care isnt affordable.

    Its an HSA, so the first $2500 is out of pocket, I figure Im gonna add $100 per month to the HSA account. No reason to pay my dentist and eye doctor with post-tax* money any more.

    *Technically, for me, the HSA contribution is still post-tax, but I get an above the line deduction for it.

  • AlmightyJb||

    Yeah I did the HSA for the first time this year. Thats the way to go.

  • Kibby||

    I miss my HSA, it was the best thing ever.

    Campus health is pretty awesome now that I'm in school full-time, but I only seem to need them when they're NOT THERE.

  • shamalamadingdong||

    "Raising the retirement age would encourage more people to work and keep their job-based health insurance until they're older"

    Keeping old farts in their jobs means those jobs are not vacated for all the young people who are trying to find work. Current unemployment rates argue against that.

  • Kreel Sarloo||

    Yes, gentle Hit and Run readers. There are still people who believe this tired old chest nut.

  • cynical||

    Just think what we could do for unemployment if we put all the women back in the kitchen.

  • Drax the Destroyer||

    And if what if we destroyed our tractors!We could put all the unemployed in the fields as we all start to die from starvation! We solve the population issue AND unemployment in one swipe. It's genius, I tell you. GENIUS! It's almost as if Paul Krugman came up with it.

  • LafayetteAnn||

    Stephen Colbert tried working in the fields and getting unemployed Americans to join him there - but it didn't work out so well.

  • Josh||

    I'm shocked this hasn't gotten more responses. There are plenty of options (ie legalize the free market) to decreasing the cost of medical care. There should be no such thing as Medicare. The "solution" to it isn't to raise the retirement age on people who have paid taxes toward Medicare all their lives, it's to actually allow a free market.

  • ||

    Medicare as we know it is the nation's biggest fiscal disaster. For years members of Congress and the executive branch have been trying, and failing, to find ways to restrain the growth of government health spending on seniors. As the single largest driver of long-term federal debt, the program is projected to increase in costs rapidly over the next few decades, with the twin drivers of a gradually aging population and rising health care costs that outstrip inflation and economic growth. Medicare is a $500 billion program on track to become a $1 trillion program before hitting estimated insolvency in 2024.

    In attempting to address the problems of Medicare and medical expenses on the whole, members of Congress should look to the history of the program. The House Ways and Means Committee, when charged with assessing the costs of the program, projected that total costs for the first year would run no more than $1.3 billion when total spending in the first year actually was $4.6 billion. The committee did not improve its accuracy over time, projecting that hospital spending would amount to just $3.1 billion in 1970 when it was actually $7.1 billion. John Goodman, president of the National Center for Policy Analysis, explains that these chronic projection mistakes are because analysts failed to account for increased demand as 19 million people were given free access to unlimited health care. Today, Congress makes the same mistakes in different ways, failing to account for a dynamic market that undermines direct controls and ignores price-controlling efforts.

  • libertariansmakemelaugh||

    There's nothing wrong with medicare. Leave it alone. Deficit hawks are hilarious.

  • LafayetteAnn||

    For a writer for 'reason', you have certainly left out any form of reasoning about the converse. What are the reasons for not raising the eligibility age? What other reforms and adjustments could be made to make Medicare solvent into the future?

    You tip your hand from 'reason' to preference with your last point - political expedience.

    A reason to NOT raise the age is that while life expectancies have risen on average, for the poor and for heavy laborers they have not risen. Other solutions include means testing and raising the income caps. What will it take for you to see reason?

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