April 20, 2021 | Updates

ICYMI: ‘The Cost Of Expanding Medicare Would Be Enormous’

WASHINGTON – As proposals to open the Medicare program up to younger Americans are discussed in government, the Pacific Research Institute’s Sally Pipes points out in Forbes that the costs “would be enormous,” and that “[l]owering Medicare’s eligibility age is unnecessary, given that older adults are more likely to have insurance than any other age group. It would also put more financial stress on the entitlement, which is dangerously close to insolvency.”
Millions of seniors and future generations of Americans are relying on Medicare to be strong, stable and secure for the future, but Medicare’s trustees are warning that the program is already at risk for today’s seniors. Adding tens of millions of Americans to Medicare would increase costs, threaten access to quality care that seniors rely on, and jeopardize the solvency of the program. It could require higher taxes and private insurance premiums and seniors waiting longer to see a doctor and receive care. And when costs increase, benefits could be cut to save money.
In her Forbes piece, Pipes states that “[p]eople between the ages of 55 and 64 are less likely to be uninsured than any other age group, aside from those over the age of 65, who are already covered by Medicare. Lowering Medicare’s eligibility age would result in millions of people exiting private coverage and picking up new public coverage at taxpayer expense. The cost of expanding Medicare would be enormous.”
Pipes adds that a “lower eligibility age would also create new challenges for doctors and hospitals. Medicare underpays providers significantly, reimbursing hospitals just 87 cents for every dollar of care they deliver. These paltry reimbursement rates stress the finances of providers—and result in higher premiums for the privately insured, who are charged more to make up for the public program’s underpayment,” also warning that opening up Medicare to younger Americans “could lead to yet higher private insurance premiums—or force some providers to close up shop.”
Today, our health care system is working together to expand access to care, and a recent analysis by the Kaiser Family Foundation finds that “the number of people eligible for a subsidy to purchase Marketplace coverage has increased 20 percent from 18.1 million to 21.8 million with passage of” the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA), while “the majority of uninsured people (63 percent) are now eligible for financial assistance through the Marketplaces, Medicaid, or Basic Health Plans. In fact, more than four out of 10 uninsured people are eligible for a free or nearly free health plan through one of these programs.”
The Associated Press reports that ARPA represents “the biggest expansion of federal help for health insurance since the Obama-era Affordable Care Act,” and separate steps are already underway to extend open enrollment in the federal health care marketplaceeliminate ineffective red tape that can prevent Americans from accessing coverage options and urge the Supreme Court to uphold the Affordable Care Act.

With our health care system already working together to help Americans get healthy and stay healthy, the time has never been better to build on and improve what’s working – where private coverage, Medicare and Medicaid work together to expand access to coverage and care – in order to lower costs, protect patient choice, expand access, improve quality and foster innovation.


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