Studies by the Kaiser Family Foundation and others have concluded that while raising the eligibility age might save the federal government money, it would actually increase state and private sector costs. Kaiser estimated the price tag would reach $11.4 billion, more than offsetting federal savings of $5.7 billion. Seniors would have to find coverage through insurance exchanges or employers, incurring billions more in out-of-pocket costs.
More importantly, the move would counter a century of efforts to expand health coverage in this country, a goal that many people in the industry claimed they supported. Insurers have never stampeded to write policies for older Americans (that's why we have Medicare). Even if the Supreme Court upholds the tepid reform law—don't bet on it—seniors would have a hard time obtaining affordable coverage. All this would occur during the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression, with companies relentlessly cutting jobs.
To suggest that vulnerable people should be put at risk so the world's most expensive healthcare system with the highest prices and inferior public health (Sept. 26, p. 17) should go untouched is hardly flattering to the industry. Ron Pollack, executive director of the advocacy group Families USA, said the AHA “is trying to shift the focus on program beneficiaries rather than hospital operations.”
We are now in an economic crisis with a politically/ideologically driven budget-cutting frenzy that is pitting interest groups against one another and the common good. It's a miserable time, but in a few decades it may at least make for a great documentary.