When Will the Medicare Age Be Lowered to 60?
Medicare is a federal health insurance program that provides coverage to people 65 and older, as well as some younger people with disabilities. The eligibility age has been set at 65 since 1965, when Medicare was first signed into law.
However, there have been calls for lowering this age in recent years, and age 60 has been the most popular recommendation.
Current Status of Lowering the Medicare Eligibility Age
A discussion about lowering the Medicare eligibility age or giving those under age 65 the option to buy into Medicare has been going on for decades.
However, the topic joined the news cycle again when President Biden talked about it during his presidential race – it was a big part of his healthcare reform platform.
Then, in September 2021, lawmakers in the House introduced the Improving Medicare Coverage Act (Congress). This Act would lower the eligibility age of Medicare from 65 to 60. However, it did not receive a vote, so it wasn’t enacted.
States Pushing For Change
Some states have considered taking matters into their own hands by setting up state-run programs that would allow residents younger than 65 years old access to Medicaid benefits (the program responsible for providing health coverage).
But despite these efforts and some progress made through congressional debate over recent years, nothing has come close to being signed into law.
Pros and Cons of Lowering the Medicare Eligibility Age
Lowing the Medicare age by 5 years may not seem like a big deal, but the ripple effects are fairly significant.
Let’s take a look at the pros and cons of lowing the Medicare eligibility age from 65 to 60.
- Expanded coverage: The number of Americans who have health insurance coverage would increase. Lowering the eligibility age would allow underinsured individuals access to Medicare benefits that they may need now rather than waiting until they reach 65 years old.
- Help Americans retire early: President Biden said during his race that a lower eligibility age would help Americans retire early.
- Potentially reducing healthcare costs in the long run: Expanded access to care before illnesses become severe or chronic could decrease overall spending. The idea is that patients will be treated when their conditions are less severe and require less costly treatment options than if they had waited until after 65 years old when their conditions were worse (and therefore more expensive).
- Increasing federal spending on healthcare: lowering the Medicare eligibility age by just 5 years could increase deficits by $155 billion over five years (Peter G. Peterson Foundation). Medicare is already projected to run out of money – increasing the financial burden would just make that worse.
- Unintended burden on healthcare providers: Compared to private insurance plans, Medicare pays very low rates to physicians, doctors, and hospitals. By shifting the Medicare eligibility age down, healthcare providers will be taking pay cuts across the board. One audiologist shared with us that if all of her patients had Medicare, she’d have to close her practice.
- The expanded coverage doesn’t necessarily help those with low incomes: those who need additional healthcare coverage the most may not really benefit from a lower Medicare eligibility age. In fact, those with very low incomes would would likely experience increased healthcare costs (Stat News).
Will the Medicare eligibility age ever be lowered from 65 to 60? Maybe. But we won’t see any major changes like this in the next year.
We will keep you posted on any big Medicare changes – be sure to subscribe to our email newsletter to stay updated. And don’t forget to schedule an appointment with us so we can assist you with your Medicare questions and enrollments.
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