Biden signed his $1.9 trillion relief bill, which included the first major expansion of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), better known as Obamacare since it became law in 2010. Now prominent lawmakers are now pushing for him to include the Medicare measure in his next spending bill, a follow-up to the recently announced infrastructure spending package.
Biden wants to lower the eligibility age for Medicare to 60 from 65, with optional enrollment in that five-year period. Under the current law, people generally become eligible for Medicare on their 65th birthday. On Biden’s Medium blog, he writes:
“Under this concept, Americans would have access, if they choose, to Medicare when they turn 60, instead of when they turn 65. Medicare benefits would be provided to them as they are to current Medicare recipients. This would make Medicare available to a set of Americans who work hard and retire before they turn 65, or who would prefer to leave their employer plans, the public option, or other plans they access through the Affordable Care Act before they retire.”
How would this benefit you?
Many Medicare beneficiaries feel proud of their earned coverage and are hesitant to support lowering the eligibility age, but the lower age threshold could mean enormous savings for millions of Americans, including current beneficiaries.
Right now, a 60-year-old person with an annual income of $51,000 (well over four times the poverty level) would have to pay a premium of $4,420 a year for a silver health plan on the Obamacare exchanges, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation, which includes the recent increases in Affordable Care Act subsidies that Biden included in his COVID-19 relief package.
If Medicare eligibility drops to 60, that $4,420 annual expense would plummet or even disappear, depending on the person’s care requirements.
In fact, the proposed reform could even have life-saving implications. According to a recent Stanford University study, diagnoses of certain cancers are disproportionately higher among people 65 and older, compared to those 64 and younger. The authors of the study concluded that “many people are delaying their care for financial reasons until they get health insurance through Medicare.”
Reminder: Not Bernie’s Medicare for All
Although Biden’s proposal would allow Americans to buy into Medicare by reducing the age limit, it would not otherwise change Medicare. Beneficiaries are to continue to pay for Medicare through a combination of Medicare taxes during their working years plus monthly premiums when retired.
This plan is much less radical than what Senator Bernie Sanders is promoting. Medicare for All would completely replace the current Medicare system with a universal, single-payer option for all Americans, funded likely by tax increases on both businesses and individuals, rather than healthcare just for the elderly.