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STUDY: Raising Medicare Eligibility Age Would Devastate America’s Most Vulnerable Seniors

By Sy Mukherjee  

"STUDY: Raising Medicare Eligibility Age Would Devastate America’s Most Vulnerable Seniors"

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The Center for American Progress (CAP) today released a new study highlighting the devastating effect that raising the Medicare eligibility age would have on America’s seniors.

CAP’s study finds that if lawmakers were to raise the eligibility age to 67, as many as 5.4 million 65- and 66-year-olds would have to search for alternative coverage sources — either by postponing retirement, enrolling in an individual plan on one of Obamacare’s statewide insurance exchanges, or qualifying for Medicaid. This dynamic alone will drive up all Americans’ costs by making existing insurance pools older, sicker, and costlier to treat.

The report further estimates that while the federal government would save a net $5.7 billion, raising the eligibility age would end up costing states, employers, and Americans an added $11.4 billion in health care spending. Worse still, seniors living in GOP-run states that have very high concentrations of poor, elderly Americans yet have refused to take part in Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion would be hit hardest by the eligibility hike, and as many as 435,000 seniors could end up uninsured by 2021 if lawmakers end up following through on the proposal:

Unfortunately, GOP governors have been digging in their heels against health care reform by refusing to take part in Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion. Just last week, while announcing that South Dakota would not be expanding its Medicaid program, Gov. Dennis Daugaard (R) dismissed the plight of poor, uninsured Americans off-hand, saying, “I want to stress that: these are able-bodied adults. They’re not disabled; we already cover the disabled. They’re not children; we already cover children. These are adults — all of them.” While it is certainly true that these poor Americans — who must make ends meet on less than $12,000 per year — are “adults,” Daugaard’s assurance that they are able-bodied is dubious.

Raising the Medicare eligibility age from 65 to 67 is fundamentally un-serious entitlement “reform.” It’s the kind of proposal that sounds logical — after all, it’s true that Americans are living longer on average — and makes for a quick and easy political pitch. But a brief dive into its mechanics and consequences shows it for what it really is: a shoddy political deal that ends up costing double what it saves by shifting the cost of health care from the federal government onto states, employers, and Americans’ premiums — all while doing absolutely nothing to address the actual roots of America’s skyrocketing health spending.

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