Why living longer shouldn’t mean a higher Medicare age

When you hear a politician start a sentence with the phrase “We’re all living longer,” grab your wallet. You are about to be told that Social Security or Medicare benefits should be cut because of America’s rising longevity.

The argument is not only specious, but hazardous to your health. That much is clear from a new report analyzing the impact of raising the Medicare eligibility age from 65 to 67, a favorite idea of U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan and other Republicans itching to push Medicare reform in currently chaotic Washington.

The report measures possible impact on patients if Medicare’s eligibility age is raised to 67 in 2019. The findings are grim: soaring rates of uninsured people age 66 and 67, worsened health outcomes and rising use of expensive emergency medical services.

A higher eligibility age, if implemented, would almost certainly not be phased in as soon as 2019. Proposals usually boost the age gradually over 10 years. But the study fast-forwards the age to 67 in order to illustrate the endgame.

Researchers engaged by the nonprofit advocacy group National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare Foundation found that the uninsured rate in the 65-66 age band would jump from nearly zero today to 18.7 percent – even if the Affordable Care Act (ACA) remains in place and the law’s Medicaid coverage were expanded to this age group.

If the ACA were repealed, the uninsured rate would soar to 37 percent. And that is with a Medicare age of 67; the conservative Heritage Foundation, for example, has proposed raising it to at least 68 over 10 years, with further indexing for life expectancy.

Learn more at Reuters Money.

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