This morning, during an interview with WNYC’s Brian Lehrer, health care provocateur Betsy McCaughey suggested that policy makers could slow Medicare spending without cutting $500 billion from Medicare and Medicaid over 10 years and “denying care to the elderly.”
Instead, the author of the “death panels” charge, suggested that policy makers should cut Americans aged 65 to 69 from the program:
The fact is that if Medicare inched up the eligibility age one month a year, until 2043 when it reached age 70, Medicare would be solvent. And that is what the Congress should do and that is what the Congressional Budget Office has urged Congress to do every year. That would solve the problem without telling elderly people that they have to suffer with crippling arthritis rather than get a knee replacement.
Despite McCaughey’s claim, the Congressional Budget Office does not “urge” Congress to raise Medicare’s eligibility age “every year.” The CBO merely includes the policy as one of “115 options for reducing (or, in some cases, increasing) federal spending on health care, altering federal health care programs, and making substantive changes to the nation’s health insurance system.”
To put the debate in terms McCaughey can understand, page 51 (37 in print version) of “CBO’s Budget Options Volume 1” says that death paneling Americans 65 to 69 years old from the Medicare system would have little effect on the trajectory of Medicare’s long-term spending. First, the option would require Medicare to “inch up” the eligibility age by two month every year, not one. And, since “younger beneficiaries are healthier and thus less costly than the program’s average beneficiary,” “outlays for Medicare would [still] rise to 7.7 percent of GDP by 2050.”
What’s more, “increasing the age of eligibility for Medicare would shift costs that are now paid by that program to individuals and to employers that offered health insurance to their retirees. Those higher costs might lead more employers to reduce or eliminate such coverage.” Uninsured 65 to 69 year olds would enter the Medicare program in worse health, only increasing Medicare’s costs.