Medicare Info Bonanza

December 12, 2012

From Washington Post’s Wonkblog:

Should we raise the Medicare eligibility age?

Five ways raising eligibility could change Medicare. “The Medicare eligibility age is one entitlement policy on the table in a fiscal cliff deal. If it went through, the policy change would move about 5 million seniors out of the entitlement program and into the market that serves the non-elderly, with private insurance and Medicaid for low-income populations as the main options. The idea of raising Mediare’s age has bounced around Washington for a few decades now, giving researchers a lot of time to figure out what this change would mean for the health care system. Here are five of their most important findings. ” Sarah Kliff in The Washington Post.

FAQ: Consequences of raising the Medicare retirement age, from The Incidental Economist’s Austin Frakt .

Trade-offs in raising Medicare eligibility age. “Americans are living longer, and Republicans want to raise the Medicare eligibility age as part of any deal to reduce the government’s huge deficits. But what sounds like a prudent sacrifice for an aging society that must watch its budget could have some surprising consequences, including higher premiums for people on Medicare.” Ricardo Alonzo-Zaldivar in The Associated Press.

Debate: “Should the eligibility age for Medicare be raised?” at The Wall Street Journal .

A better way to raise the eligibility age for retirement benefits. “If it’s age increases that the political system wants, there’s a better way to do it. Ezekiel Emanuel, who advised the Obama administration on health care and now works with the Center for American Progress, calls it ‘graduated eligibility,’ and it would link the age of eligibility with lifetime earnings: ‘Here’s how it would work. People in the bottom half of the lifetime earnings distribution would become eligible for normal retirement benefits at age 65 for Medicare and 66 for Social Security, just as they are today. But people in the next quarter of the lifetime earnings distribution would become eligible for the respective programs at 67 and 68, and those in the top quarter would become eligible at 70 and 71. All eligibility ages would increase over time, as they are scheduled to now.'”Ezra Klein in The Washington Post.

Sen. Dick Durbin opposes the idea. “As rumors swirl that Democrats may consider raising the Medicare eligibility age to reach a deal before the looming ‘fiscal cliff,’ a top Senate Democrat expressed opposition to that option Sunday. Speaking on Meet the Press, Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL) said raising the age at which seniors can receive Medicare from 65 to 67 would leave retired seniors with a dangerous gap in their health coverage.” Nicole Flatow in ThinkProgress.

COHN: No, don’t raise the age. “As both fiscal and health care policy, increasing the Medicare age from 65 to 67, even gradually, has very little to recommend it. The federal government would save money, yes, but only because state governments, employers and individual seniors would pay more. Overall, the nation would end up spending more on medical care, not less. That’s the very opposite of what public policy, including Obamacare, is trying to achieve.” Jonathan Cohn in The New Republic.

SUDERMAN: Three reasons we should raise the age. “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. “Peter Suderman in Reason.

CARROLL: The stupidity of increasing the Medicare eligibility age. “Almost all of the arguments for raising the eligibility age coalesce around the idea that since life expectancy has gone up so much, we have to think about making people work a little longer People are actually living on average less than 5 years longer today on Medicare than when the program was passed But what’s somewhat stunning is how much of a disparity there is in these gains. The top half of earners gained more than 5 years of life at age 65. The bottom half of earners, though, gained less than a year.” Aaron Caroll in “The Incidental Economist” blog.

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