5 Reasons Raising the Medicare Eligibility Age Would Be A Disaster

Medicare has been providing health coverage for older adults and disabled Americans since 1965, and it’s a bit of a triumph of social insurance. The program is designed to ensure that some of the neediest and most medically vulnerable members of society can access services they need, and that’s why conservative proposals (and potential liberal compromises) to raise the eligibility age should be viewed with considerable skepticism. Currently, all seniors qualify at age 65 for Medicare services, and pushing that age up could have dire consequences.

1. The road to privatization. Conservative attempts to privatize all government services in the United States range from education to services for low-income Americans; it’s no surprise that they’re also interested in attacking Medicare. If they succeeded, it could spell trouble for seniors, many of whom are low-income themselves and unable to secure health insurance on their own. Matthew Yglesias (and others) argue that pushing the age up could be a key step in a move to privatize Medicare, because as people are dropped for the rolls, the program would be underutilized, presenting an ideal argument for removing it altogether.

2. Hundreds of thousands uninsured. A study released in December 2012 suggested that raising the age by just two years, from 65 to 67, could leave almost half a million seniors uninsured. Low-income seniors could have nowhere to go for insurance coverage in a number of states, even after the Affordable Care Act, and tragically, the poverty rate is especially high for seniors living in states that are refusing the Medicaid expansion which could help them access affordable insurance.

3. Raising the eligibility age wouldn’t save money, it would just shift costs. None other than Nancy Pelosi, writing in defense of Medicare for USA Today, notes that raising the eligibility age wouldn’t mean that 65 and 66-year-olds magically didn’t need health care anymore. Instead, they’d need to pay out of pocket for services, and a ripple effect would spread through the system as the cost for their care distributed through the states, older Medicare beneficiaries, employers, and younger workers. She says: “the Kaiser Family Foundation estimates that higher state and private sector costs would be twice as large as the total federal savings.”

4. Increasing inequality among seniors. Among low-income seniors, some are even more low-income than others. Women and minorities are much more likely to be poor, and have a hard time surviving after retirement. They’d be hit especially hard by an increase in the eligibility age, which could leave them scrabbling for health care coverage, and more likely to delay needed medical treatment and other interventions because of concerns about affordability. With gaping income inequality already a huge issue in the United States, exacerbation is the last thing we need.

5. Moving goalposts sets a dangerous precedent. Those paying into Medicare right now, especially older adults in their 50s and 60s, are expecting Medicare to be there when they need it. Pushing back the eligibility age leaves them out in the cold, and also destabilizes other social welfare programs; once this key element of Medicare is changed, others could change as well, and so could other programs intended to help people who need help accessing health care, education and other services in the United States. A shift in the retirement age would represent a broken promise to all of us who paid into the system with an expectation that we’d get benefits.


Related posts:

Cantor Says Many on Medicare Can Afford Their Own Insurance

Paul Ryan, Republicans Sign On To End Medicare

Will Congress Fix Medicare Before 2011 Is Over?


Photo credit: 401(k) 2012


LMj Sunshine

Thank you for info.

LMj Sunshine

Thank you for info.

LMj Sunshine

Thank you for info.

Fred Hoekstra
Fred Hoekstra3 years ago

Thank you S. E., for Sharing this!

All we need to do, is to Remove the individuals who Illegally Receiving Medicare and there would be enough for the people who are tryly Entitled to it.

Ann F.
Ann Fenner3 years ago

I think raising the age for medicare is just a ploy by those in Congress who are backed by monies from private insurance companies. Insurance companies have plenty of money to lobby members of Congress and those in power. Statistically speaking, raising the age of eligibility would allow more seniors to die before they were eligible for medicare. Many seniors simply don't go to the doctor unless they can pay. In the doctors offices where I have been a patient, I can't get out of the without there being a DEMAND for payment. The demand is usually loud and very intimidating.

Christopher M.
Christopher M.3 years ago

Grace I agree. Just look at what Republicans vote for. Lower taxes, big military, cut any public aid except to the rich. As my history professor said once, it is socialism for the rich and capitalism for the poor.

Ana R
ANA MARIJA R.3 years ago

Thanks for the information.

Sue Matheson
Sue Matheson3 years ago


William Ford
William Ford3 years ago

Either Medicare, Ombamacare, Healthcare is no big problem! Industrial / military pharmacy is damned big problem!

Katie K.
Katie K.3 years ago

Geez...."they" should lower it as far as I'm concerned. When you hit mid-fifties your body starts fighting back telling you to sit down some. But that's for us normal folks that bust their humps and haven't lived with a platimun spoon in our mouths and "they" are the ones wanting to raise it since its not that big of a concern for their ilk. And how much of a social security check do "they" get when "they" are eligible when you make millions every year? " They" base your payment on your earned income, don't t "they"? Giving the most to those who need it the least. Don't make good sense to me.