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The Future of Medicare: 15 Proposals You Should Know About

Pros and cons of options on the table in Washington

1. Raise the Medicare Eligibility Age

Since Medicare's creation in 1965, the eligibility age has been 65 for people without disabilities. Some proposals would gradually raise Medicare's eligibility age from 65 to 67. So instead of receiving health coverage through Medicare, 65- and 66-year-olds would need to enroll in coverage through an employer plan or a government program (such as Medicaid) or purchase their own coverage on the individual market or through a health insurance exchange.

PRO: Raising the Medicare eligibility age is a good idea. Both Medicare and Social Security were intended for retired Americans. So it would make sense to set the normal eligibility age of each program at the age where we have decided as a nation that retirement typically begins. We could do so by increasing the eligibility age slowly over 10 or 15 years to at least 67 — the Social Security normal retirement age — and by allowing the eligibility age of both programs to rise gradually after that as Americans live longer. This would reduce Medicare’s costs by about 5 percent over the next 20 years. Not a magic bullet, but one important step to solving the Medicare cost problem. (Stuart Butler, Heritage Foundation)

CON: Raising the age of eligibility for Medicare at this time would be a bad idea. It would save the federal government little money, raise total health care spending, impose significant financial burdens on many financially vulnerable seniors and impose new costs on businesses and state governments. Having to wait until age 65 for Medicare coverage is a serious problem even now. Raising the age of eligibility for Medicare makes the wait longer and the problem worse. Now is not the time to put at risk the health insurance coverage for millions of 65- and 66-year-olds in the mistaken belief that doing so will contribute significantly to lowering the federal deficit. (Henry J. Aaron, Brookings Institution)

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