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Reduce the Deficit and Your Health Insurance Premium: Expand Medicare to Public Option!

The budget hawks in Washington are considering raising the eligibility age for Medicare. The Congressional Budget Office has calculated that excluding younger old folks from Medicare would reduce federal spending of $113 billion over ten years. Those savings come by transferring costs to individuals in their 60s who would pay higher premiums for private insurance while waiting for Medicare. Current Medicare recipients would also pay more out of pocket, since raising the Medicare eligibility age would remove the youngest, healthiest payers from the Medicare risk pool. Delaying Medicare benefits would also increase the number of people without health insurance.

Senator Jeff Merkley of Oregon some apt budget jujitsu: reduce the government's deficit by expanding a government program. Senator Merkley says we should lower the Medicare eligibility age:

I do a lot of town halls.... I can’t tell you how many times someone will come up to me and say, "Here's the thing. I'm 61, and I have these major health problems. I don't have insurance. I'm praying I make it to 65." The idea that we’re going to take all these folks with diseases setting in as they get older, and move them two years later? Absolutely unacceptable.

We should be lowering the age, not raising it [Senator Jeff Merkley (D-OR), quoted by Greg Sargent, "Liberals Warn Obama: We Will Fight Any Hike in Medicare Age," Washington Post: The Plum Line, 2012.12.12].

In 2010, the CBO evaluated the fiscal impact of allowing folks under 65 to buy into Medicare as the "public option" in health insurance reform. Younger individuals buying into Medicare would save Uncle Sam $68 billion by 2020. Public option buyers would save 5% to 7% on their premiums. Younger, healthier Medicare members would expand the risk pool and restrain premium growth for older members. And expanding Medicare would reduce the number of uninsured Americans.

Raise the Medicare eligibility age, and your federal budget savings come at the expense of individuals. Lower the Medicare eligibility age, expand the program, and the government and individuals save money.


  1. larry kurtz 2012.12.16

    Medicare is last century's solution, Cory: could amending ObamaCare look more like a 21st Century reality?

  2. Dana P. 2012.12.16

    right on, Cory. right on!

  3. caheidelberger Post author | 2012.12.16

    Thanks, Dana! Larry, I don't know that we have to amend too hard. I think we just go George McGovern's Medicare E route: open Medicare to everybody. I mean really, if the government is going to require us all to buy health insurance, it seems to make sense that the government should make that insurance available directly.

  4. Stan Gibilisco 2012.12.16

    This'll never happen in an Obama administration.

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