Austin Frakt and Aaron Carroll make the important point that Sen. Joe Lieberman’s (I-CT) proposal to increase the Medicare eligibility age won’t just increase costs for seniors — it will also “harm health”:
This is not guesswork on our part; there’s clear evidence in the literature. In several papers, Michael McWilliams and colleagues found that utilization, spending, and outcomes for age-eligible Medicare beneficiaries differed for those who had been uninsured prior to turning 65 vs. those who had been insured. Their work was based on survey data, sometimes merged with Medicare claims. This is a relatively strong analytic approach since it exploits a discontinuity in coverage that potentially applies to nearly all individuals: the vast majority of the population enrolls in Medicare at age 65.
The authors found that, relative to those with insurance before age 65, those without insurance prior to Medicare eligibility spent much more money on health care after they became Medicare eligible. In other words, people wait to get care until their Medicare kicks in. This is bad both for health and for the federal government’s bottom line.
Delaying Medicare even longer would likely make this worse. People would forego care longer, health would suffer, and Medicare would pay for the consequences later.
As Frakt and Carroll point out, “If you know you need care, and it’s expensive, then you will likely try and wait until the Medicare kicks in to get it. People do this all the time; the evidence above confirms it.”