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Medicare at 50: a New Medicare Buy-In Bill

The next big change to Medicare could be to offer a buy-in option for people between ages 50 and 64. Backed by several Democratic senators, this bill could be especially helpful for people forced into retirement before age 65 or who chose to retire early.

The bill

The Medicare at 50 Act was drafted by Senators Debbie Stabenow of Michigan, Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin, and Sherrod Brown of Ohio. In their announcement of the bill, the senators said, “Millions of Americans who are approaching retirement or are being forced to retire early due to layoffs or mandatory retirement face increasing health care needs and rising costs.”

In a separate statement, Stabenow said, “[The bill] will help strengthen Medicare, lower costs, and improve care for millions of people.” This would be accomplished by bringing younger, healthier people into the system and expanding the risk pool.

With this bill, Democrats are focused on providing coverage for Americans who are eligible to gain coverage through the Affordable Care Act marketplace, but are unable to do so because it is cost prohibitive. An estimated 27 percent of people approaching retirement age are not confident in their ability to keep their insurance due to limited plan or provider options, coverage decisions, and out-of-pocket costs.

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Support for Medicare at 50

Democratic senators running for president in 2020 who support Medicare at 50 include Cory Booker of New Jersey, Kirsten Gillibrand of New York, Kamala Harris of California, and Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota.

Senator Ben Cardin of Maryland, another strong supporter of the bill, said, “Medicare is a highly efficient and cost-effective program, and allowing people to begin buying into it at age 50 would got a long way toward helping older Americans deal with skyrocketing health care costs… It’s truly a win-win, and I hope to work with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to get this bill passed.”

A recent poll from the Kaiser Family Foundation revealed that 77 percent of the American public supports giving people 50 and up a Medicare buy-in option.

One step closer to Medicare for All

Supporters view this as a move in the right direction—one bringing us closer to universal coverage for all Americans. For many, that would be Medicare for All, which would grant healthcare coverage to every single American by dropping the eligibility age 10 years every year for four years until everyone is covered.

The original Medicare for All bill, drafted and championed by Bernie Sanders, has gained more and more of the national spotlight as the 2020 presidential election draws closer.

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