Medicare guarantees access to health care for older adults and people with disabilities. Together with the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and Medicaid, Medicare builds health security for Americans of all ages. Any changes to Medicare must aim for healthier people, better care, and smarter spending—not paying more for less.
Some lawmakers support increasing the Medicare eligibility age from 65 to 67. This costly benefit cut is sometimes defended by arguing that as Americans live longer and delay retirement, most people will not need Medicare at age 65. But most Americans retire well before age 67—half of all men are retired by age 64 and half of all women by age 62.
Raising the Medicare age is unpopular with Americans of all ages.
More than 60% of Americans ages 18-54 and nearly 70% of those ages 55-64 do not support raising the eligibility age.
Percent of Americans ages 18-54 who do not support raising the eligibility age:
Percent of Americans ages 55-64 who do not support raising the eligibility age:
Many older adults would pay more or go without affordable coverage.
Premiums would likely go up for all people with Medicare coverage. The absence of younger, healthier 65- and 66-year-olds in Medicare would leave an older, sicker, and more expensive group for the federal government to insure.
If the ACA is repealed, the uninsured rate among Americans ages 65 and 66 could jump from 1.1% to as high as 37% in 2019.
People with Medicare: Just the Facts
Most people with Medicare cannot afford to pay more. Half of all people with Medicare have incomes less than $24,150 per year and have $63,350 or less in savings.
People of color live on even less. The median income for black beneficiaries is $16,150 per year and just $12,800 for Hispanic beneficiaries.
Older people of color are more likely to live in poverty. The poverty rate is 18% for black adults over 65 and 20% for Hispanic adults compared to 7% for white adults.
People with Medicare already pay a significant amount towards health care. In 2012, they paid 14% of household expenses towards health care costs, compared with only 5% for those not yet on Medicare.
Baby Boomers need Medicare to retire. Among future retirees, half will have incomes below $28,450 per year and $102,800 or less in savings.
Working-class people and diverse communities would be especially harmed.
Increasing the Medicare eligibility age is particularly punitive for those who perform physical labor. Machine operators, farm workers, and others with jobs that require physical activity and manual labor are often unable to delay retirement.
Diverse communities would be among those hardest hit. People of color tend to be in poorer health at earlier ages, with lower incomes and less wealth. Access to Medicare at the earliest possible age is essential—if not life-saving—for diverse elders.
People with Medicare: Margaret
“I was uninsured for three years because I lost a job, and I could only find jobs that did not include health care. That all changed when I turned 65 and signed up for Medicare.
That was one of the happiest days of my life! I cannot begin to tell you how relieved I was. And since that time, Medicare has improved to include some preventive care, and that makes it even better.”
Hiking the Medicare age does not save costs—it merely shifts costs.
Raising the Medicare eligibility age saves the federal government money at the expense of the individuals, employers, and states that would bear the cost of insuring 65- and 66-year-olds.
Increased costs borne by these groups would more than offset any savings to the federal government. Estimates suggest increased costs overall would be two times the cost savings for the federal government—$11.4 billion in cost shifting versus $5.7 billion in federal savings in 2014.
Without Medicare, employers would pick up some of the tab to insure 65- and 66-year-olds. If implemented in 2014, employers would have paid an increase of $4.5 billion in employer retiree health care costs.
Protect & Strengthen Medicare
Visit our one-stop resource for facts and information on the Medicare program and on proposals under consideration by Congress and the Administration to change it. Check back for ongoing updates and opportunities to get involved.