The administration is reeling in the wake of news that an “error” in health care reform could accidentally let seniors who are trying to retire early have access to Medicaid – even if they have as much as $64,000 a year in household income.
The change in rules allegedly would allow as many as 3 million seniors the opportunity to use Medicaid as an insurer if they take an early retirement at age 62, a time when many of the elderly could begin to receive Social Security benefits. Because these benefits would not be counted as income under the new rules, officially a senior couple could receive a maximum of $23,500 a year each in benefits, and an additional $17,000 in other income, and still qualify for Medicaid. Without the change, they would make too much money to get insurance through the government until they turned 65 and are eligible for the Medicare program.
Republicans are aghast at the idea, and the administration says it is looking for “a fix.” But what if this isn’t really a problem, but instead an opportunity to turn the economy around?
The biggest issue facing the country is the massive unemployment rate, part of which is being fed off of the fact that baby boomers who are near retirement just simply aren’t retiring and opening up jobs for other people to fill. And one of the biggest reasons that they aren’t retiring is because their employer is how they get health care, and until Medicare kicks in it is simply unaffordable to purchase their own insurance. For an elderly couple, regardless of health or prior conditions, individual insurance could be an enormous part of the monthly spending — unfeasible on an smaller fixed income.
Now, if we created a way for those people to get cheaper, much more manageable health insurance if they take an early retirement, suddenly jobs are open and the unemployed can get back into the market, allowing pumping more spending into the economy and continuing the cycle of more hiring.
Doesn’t letting the elderly have basic affordable health care so they can retire early make at least as much sense as an economic engine as continuing to maintain massive tax breaks for the rich? Why correct this “error?” Call it the new economic plan!
Photo credit: photo from wikimedia commons