By Robert Schlesinger |
House Republicans want to raise the age of Medicare eligibility from 65 to 67 as part of a plan to avoid the fiscal cliff. It's a foolish idea that merely shifts costs from the federal government onto individuals, private employers, and state and local governments. Actually it's worse: Total costs will also rise because commercial insurance companies pay more for the same services than Medicare does. And raising the Medicare eligibility age does nothing to improve incentives or add efficiency.
(As a side note, it's also a curious proposal coming from the GOP so soon after an election when they presented themselves as better defenders of Medicare than the Democrats.)
If the goal is to tweak age eligibility, it would be wiser to raise the age for Social Security eligibility instead. Raising the age for Social Security benefits to 67 would provide an incentive for seniors to remain in the workforce, thus promoting economic growth and broadening the tax base—which are completely consistent with the Republican platform and common sense. Keeping people working will also extend the solvency of Social Security and Medicare, thanks to the payroll taxes that are deducted from earnings, and will increase consumer spending because workers spend more than retirees.
Sixty-six year olds need health insurance whether or not they are working. So if Medicare isn't there for them the cost will have to be borne by someone else. But gainfully employed people have no need to rely on Social Security checks. In fact they contribute to the long-term health of Medicare and Social Security, help narrow the federal budget deficit, and boost economic growth. Keeping the Medicare age at 65 and raising the Social Security age to 67 would also make it easier for companies to employ seniors since employers would not have to pay for their health insurance.
About David E. Williams Cofounder of MedPharma Partners LLC,
Debra Whitman AARP Executive Vice President for Policy and International
Sy Mukherjee Health Reporter for ThinkProgress
Ethan Rome Executive Director of Health Care for America Now
James Capretta Visiting Fellow at the American Enterprise Institute
Robert Moffit Senior Fellow at the Heritage Foundation