Is there a point for changing Medicare’s age of compliance?
With millions of baby boomers aging and quickly heading into retirement, this years election cycle is seeing a lot of discussion about Medicare and it’s long term financial prognosis. Spending on the program is growing so fast so quickly that it is threatening the health of the U.S. economy and the future of how American rapidly growing population of seniors is going to a major policy challenge over the coming decade.
One policy idea and one proposed solution to the Medicare problem is to raise the eligibility age gradually to 67 from 65. Those that support this idea point to the fact that Americans are living longer now than they did when Medicare began in 1966, and that the new health-care law will ensure that older Americans have access to affordable insurance even if they can’t get coverage through an employer because they are retired.
When people first began receiving Medicare benefits in 1966, the average 65-year-old old lived another 15 years; today that figure is 20 years. With this increase of life expectancy, Medicare costs have grown 14-fold since the program started.
On the opposition side, those against a increase to Medicare make the argument that making Americans wait two extra years to get Medicare would be unfair to the poor, increase the ranks of the uninsured and possibly end up costing Americans more than it saves them.
The argument on increased costs states that while the two year increase in eligibility would save the government hundreds of billions of dollars, most of this cost savings would be clawed back by increased spending on Medicaid, as more younger retires would claim disability, as well it would see an increase in subsidy spending, more contributions form employers to cover the extra two years, driving premiums up, and finally even greater out-of-pockets costs forced onto seniors.
An excellent overview on both sides of this debate was published in the Wall Street Journal last week. Maya MacGuineas and Aaron E. Carroll published arguments for and against the increase to 67.
At Canadian Pharmacy Drug we watch this debate closely because we see everyday the struggles that seniors face when trying to afford the medication they need to live. An increase to 67, without corresponding changes to expanding how seniors are covered by insurance plans could force even more Americans to struggle to afford medication until benefits kick in. Even under the current Medicare Part-D coverage, there are significant gaps that result in large out-of-pockets costs. The reality is, that with drug costs rising every year, no matter how Medicare is reformed, many seniors will fall through the cracks and be faced with drug bills they can’t afford. The ability to safely import lower cost medication from Canada and other first tier nations will continue to be an affordable way for seniors at age 64, or 65 or 67 to save on their health care costs.
Please comment in our comment section or on our Facebook page about what an increase of Medicare eligibility would mean for you and your family.