Thursday, December 13, 2012


Mr President and Democrats in Congress, do not cave in to Republicans, and raise the eligibility age for Medicare from 65 to 67.  If you recall, Republicans lost the election.  Think about it.  Not everyone works in a comfortable chair at a desk in a climate-controlled office.  Some folks in their 60s are on their feet all day  Do you know what is the condition of their legs?  Some folks in their 60s do hard physical labor in all sorts of weather, which takes a toll on their bodies.  What if these people lose their jobs?  How many are likely to find jobs, much less jobs with health insurance benefits?  If the people in their 60s find jobs without benefits, how will they pay for health insurance?  Democrats won the election.  If you must, let the tax hikes go into effect.  Go over the fiscal cliff, which is actually a gentle slope.  In the next Congress, the numbers of Democrats in both houses of Congress will rise, so your negotiating position will be even stronger.  We did not elect you to put in place Republican policies.

If I could wave a magic wand, I'd adjust the premiums somewhat and lower the eligibility age for Medicare to 60 or 62 to get younger, healthier people into the pool, or I'd even allow anyone to buy in.  The rest of the citizens of the country ought to have the same access to health care as you do, Mr President and members of Congress.  Raising the eligibility age for Medicare is a really bad idea.  

Paul Krugman agrees:
Yet the idea just won’t go away. It’s almost surreal. What’s going on here?

One answer is that conservatives badly want a rise in the Medicare age, never mind the policy virtues or lack thereof. Why? Partly because liberals hate the idea: pay any attention to right-wing rhetoric and you learn that spite against liberals, even if there’s no gain for their side, is a major motivator. Beyond that, there is some actual strategic thinking here: by reducing the number of people receiving Medicare, they hope to undermine support for the whole program.
Right.  That's what Republicans want, but they lost the election.
The Congressional Budget Office has estimated that the federal government could save $125 billion over the coming decade from such a change. But opponents note that the feds would simply be shifting costs from Medicare onto other payers, whether they be private employers, retirees or Medicaid.

A study by the nonpartisan Kaiser Family Foundation estimated that raising the eligibility age would actually cause total U.S. spending on healthcare to increase, even as it saved the federal government money. The study predicted that costs would go up for both the seniors newly ineligible for Medicare -- they'd obtain coverage from less cost-effective private insurers -- and for those who stayed in the program, because the Medicare population would be older on average and riskier than before.
See?  The math doesn't work.  Republican math did not work during the campaign, and it doesn't work now, which is why we voted for Democrats.  Get it, Sirs? 
Increasing the eligibility age for Medicare saves money for the budget. But that’s no great policy feat – just kick some people off the rolls and boom, you’ve got some savings. In fact, it raises costs for the larger system (see here), while potentially leaving 65-66-year-olds with a less access to affordable coverage. That’s not “reform” — it’s a short-sighted attack on a critical, highly efficient program motivated not by efficiency, but by antipathy to social insurance.
Why is changing the eligibility age for Medicare on the table in negotiations?  Why do Democrats even mention the possibility?  The only reason Democrats should talk about the change in age requirements for Medicare is to repeat over and over that no such change will happen.  Thank heaven for women in the House and Senate:
[Rep. Nancy] Pelosi then went on CBS's "This Morning" and said Democrats would "object" to raising the Medicare eligibility age. Democrats in the House and Senate backed Pelosi.

“I haven’t heard any Democrat in our caucus say they’re open to raising the eligibility age,” Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA) said, according to The Hill.

Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA), speaking for many Senate Democrats, said raising the Medicare eligibility age would be a "nonstarter."
Cautionary note: The link just above is to a far-right website, but they make my case for me.

Image from The Other 98%.

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