In a recent report published by the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare Foundation based on research by the Actuarial Research Corporation, we demonstrate that Speaker Paul Ryan’s proposal to raise the age of Medicare eligibility from 65 to 67 would harm the health of 65- and 66-year old adults as well as the financial health of the institutions that care for them.
If Congress raises the Medicare eligibility age to 67, between two and four million people 65 and 66 years old would be left uninsured, depending on whether or not the ACA is repealed. Currently, Medicare covers almost everyone 65 and over, with only 1.1 percent of people over 65 uninsured. But if the eligibility age for Medicare increases by two years, even if the ACA is not repealed, the percentage of uninsured would increase seventeen-fold to 18.7 percent or 1.9 million people 65 and 66. If the ACA is repealed, the percentage of uninsured would increase to 37 percent or 3.8 million people, more than one in three people 65 and 66.
These uninsured older Americans will be hard-pressed to get needed care, particularly if the ACA is repealed. To the extent they have chronic conditions, insurers may no longer agree to cover them and, even if coverage is available, it is unlikely to be affordable for most people; if it’s affordable, it is likely to cover only limited benefits, with annual and lifetime caps. They will, therefore, end up using emergency services at far greater cost to our health care system and the institutions that provide them care.
Doctors and hospitals in particular will find themselves covering the cost of care for most of these newly uninsured Americans (without reimbursement), putting these health care providers at financial risk. To the extent they raise their rates to absorb these costs, insurance premiums will rise further, escalating health care costs for insured Americans.
Medicare is far better than commercial insurance at guaranteeing coverage, containing costs, and giving people with costly conditions access to the care they need. We should be expanding Medicare to everyone in the U.S., not driving up health care costs and the number of uninsured by raising the eligibility age.
Here’s more from Just Care:
- Vast majority of Americans want to expand Medicare
- Who’ll lose health coverage after ACA repeal?
- Four things to know if your income is low and you have Medicare