Most Americans qualify for Medicare when they reach the age of 65. Seniors can choose to become Medicare recipients if they are U.S. citizens, have resided in the U.S. for at least five years and have contributed to Medicare for at least 10 years while employed. For those who have all these bases covered, it is likely that a Medicare eligibility card will come in the mail just prior to their 65th birthday.
Enrollment for Medicare Part A is automatic for most seniors and doesn't have a cost or premium. For Part B of Medicare, which includes doctor visits and services, there is a premium but coverage can be waived. However, this could result in an higher premium later on that is likely permanent. For many seniors, Medicare works well and is a cheap way to get healthcare coverage. Under the Affordable Care Act, many of the benefits have recently been extended to include free preventive care.
While many tout Medicare as a successful program, there are others who argue the age of eligibility should be raised in light of the higher costs of healthcare. The threat of higher costs comes as millions more Americans are about to enter their golden years and become eligible for Medicare coverage.
Raising the age of eligibility
Some argue that because more Americans are working later into their lives than ever before and are living longer, raising the age limit for Medicare eligibility is a good idea. Some say raising the age to 67 would reduce to overall cost of Medicare without impacting seniors' ability to access affordable healthcare, pointing out that living standards have changed since Medicare began in 1965. The increase in age is similar to what is already being done with social security.
Others respond to this by saying that raising the age would be unfair to certain demographics, including lower-income Americans and those who aren't working. It is possible that this action would increase the number of seniors who are uninsured and could end up costing more than it could save.
According to a report by the Congressional Budget Office, raising the age for Medicare eligibility would provide little in the way of savings. The savings would be offset by the amount the government would need to spend in federal subsidies for those who use the private exchanges to find alternative healthcare.
The debate of raising the age of Medicare eligibility is ongoing, and lawmakers will need to make tough choices in order to figure out the budget as millions of Americans become seniors.