Increasing the Medicare eligibility age by two years would result in hundreds of thousand of seniors not having health insurance, according to a new report by the Center for American Progress. Some have argued that raising the age is now more acceptable since the Affordable Care Act will find the void, but the ACA is clearly an imperfect substitute. Even if the ACA was fully implemented and provided to be successful at attracting individuals a large number of seniors would still slip through the cracks. From the report:
Studies that have modeled the effects of raising the Medicare eligibility age on access to insurance coverage have assumed that the majority of seniors would find alternate coverage because of the Affordable Care Act, either through the exchanges—new marketplaces where individuals and businesses will be able to purchase insurance—or the Medicaid expansion. Even if the Affordable Care Act were fully implemented when the Medicare eligibility age is increased, the Congressional Budget Office estimates that about 5 percent of the seniors affected, or 270,000 individuals, would become uninsured.
Only around 270,000 new uninsured seniors is basically the best case scenario. To begin with the law has not been implemented yet so we don’t know how many people will use the new exchanges. The rate at which people sign up could end up being much lower than the CBO predicts.
More importantly, the Supreme Court has made the Medicaid expansion option. As a result multiple states have indicated they don’t plan to expand Medicaid at this time. If these states don’t expand Medicaid it would leave a large number of lower income seniors with no options if the Medicare age is increased. From the report:
With this backdrop, we considered how many seniors with incomes below the poverty line live in states that may not expand Medicaid. According to our analysis, up to 164,466 seniors in these states would be at risk of becoming uninsured if the Medicare eligibility age were increased today. [...]
The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office estimated that 270,000 people would become uninsured in 2021 if the eligibility age were gradually increased over the next 10 years. This estimate “assumed that people with the lowest income would qualify for Medicaid benefits,” and in fact, the report notes that “many more people would become uninsured” if seniors were unable to gain Medicaid coverage or purchase insurance through the exchanges. Combining our conservative calculations with the estimated number of uninsured under the Congressional Budget Office study, raising the Medicare eligibility age would put approximately 435,000 seniors at risk of becoming uninsured by 2021.
Raising the Medicare age could easily result in 270,000 to 435,000 seniors going without insurance according to the analysis by Center for American Progress.
It simply can’t be stated enough how unique terrible a policy idea this is. It would increase overall health care spending significantly more than it reduces federal outlays, it would cause almost everyone’s premiums and it would radically increase the number of seniors without insurance.