Is raising the Medicare eligibility age really a viable option in the current economic environment?
Raising the Medicare eligibility age seems a dubious proposition right now
In the past month, two leading healthcare organizations—the American Hospital Association and the Healthcare Leadership Council—have said lawmakers should consider increasing the Medicare eligibility age to 67 from 65 as they find ways to cut the federal deficit. The AHA included the measure in the group's legislative advocacy agenda, while the HLC (a coalition of nearly 50 healthcare groups representing hospitals, health plans, drug companies and device manufacturers) listed it as one of four recommendations to the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction in the group's ambitious proposal to save about $410 billion over 10 years.
When the HLC proposal was released, Eric Zimmerman, an attorney with McDermott, Will & Emery, told me that raising the eligibility age would require a broader discussion—and one that included the American public in that conversation. I was reminded of that this week when I saw the results of a September survey from the Employee Benefit Research Institute showing the public opposes the idea.
“When it comes to raising the Medicare eligibility age for full benefits to 68 (the survey used this age, not 67) while at the same time lowering the age for partial benefits to 62, most Americans are against it,” the survey noted. “Nine percent strongly favor such a proposal and 18% somewhat favor it,” it added. “In contrast, 28% somewhat oppose the idea, and 41% strongly oppose it.”
The AHA has been clear in saying the idea should be one of many considerations that lawmakers take into account. But Ron Pollack, executive director of patient advocacy group Families USA, late last week warned of its potential consequences.
“My hope is we don't shift a greater burden onto people who can't bear that additional burden,” Pollack said. “And I think raising the eligibility to 67 from 65 has the potential for being such a cost shift.”
You can follow Jessica Zigmond on Twitter @MHJZigmond.
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