Expanding Eligibility

Expanding Medicare

Republicans fought the creation of Medicare in the 1960s. They still oppose any government participation in health care industry. The problem for them is that Medicare is very popular. Most Medicare recipients are satisfied. And now Joe Biden wants to expand Medicare to more Americans.

Biden’s simple and clear strategy is lowering the eligibility age for Medicare from 65 to 60. Lowering the Medicare eligibility age is popular. A KFF tracking poll from January 2019 discovered that 85% of Democrats and 69% of Republicans favor allowing younger people to buy into Medicare.

Biden’s plan will help Americans who will retire early and those who are unemployed or can’t find jobs with health benefits.

“It reflects the reality that, even after the current crisis ends, older Americans are likely to find it difficult to secure jobs,” Biden wrote last April.

Biden has said he has a plan for not only salvaging the law but making it stronger. He says Americans can maintain private insurance, but a public option will also be available. This benefits Americans who couldn’t access Medicaid because they live in Red states that didn’t allow them to do so under the ACA.

“What I’m going to do is pass Obamacare with a public option,” Biden said in a debate against Trump. “It becomes Bidencare.”

Reducing Uninsured

Lowering the age to 60 could add as many as 23 million people to Medicare, according to consulting firm Avalere Health. Cristina Boccuti is director of health policy at West Health, a nonpartisan research group. She reports that while the 60-to-65 group has the lowest uninsured rate (8%) among adults, it has the highest health costs and pays the highest rates for individual coverage.

The biggest obstacle will be funding and fixing Medicare reimbursement rates. Right now, Republicans have limited payments to hospitals. They only average half what commercial or employer-sponsored insurance plans pay. Private health insurance covers 180 million people but costs are too high, satisfaction is low, and access unpredictable. Biden wants to retain the private health insurance system but expand Medicare to cover more uninsured.

About 13 million between 60 and 65 have coverage through their employer, according to Avalere. Some 4 million people between 60 and 65 are enrolled in Medicaid. Shifting them to Medicare would save states money since they split Medicaid costs with the federal government. This might solve many insurance coverage issues.

Elections have consequences. More than two-thirds of Americans support Biden’s decision to rejoin the Paris climate accord. 70 percent back the United States’ re-entry into the World Health Organization. 83 percent support prohibiting workplace discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity according to an ABC News/Ipsos poll released last month.

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