Democrats seeking to forge a compromise among themselves on the government plan are considering lowering the age of Medicare elgibility to 55, according to the Huffington Post. Described as an olive branch to liberals in exchange for watering down the so-called “public option,” the idea would represent a fiscal train wreck that could be even more damaging than the creation of a new government-run plan.
As it stands now, Medicare is effectively bankrupt, and faces a long term deficit of $89 trillion. One of the few realistic ways to avert catastrophe would be to actually shrink eligibility by extending the retirement age. But lowering eligibility to those aged 55 and older would likely add millions of beneficiaries to the program, putting it in an even more dire position, and ensuring that the looming entitlement crisis hits sooner, is much more devastating, and much more difficult to dig ourselves out of.
Further, throughout the debate over the creation of a new government plan, one of the fears was that it would use the kind of low Medicare reimbursement rates that would hurt doctors and hospitals, and ultimately force them to cut services and/or shift more costs onto those with private health care. Throughout the process, the government plan was weakened, to the point where eligibility is now limited and it cannot use Medicare reimbursement rates. It’s still worth opposing in my view, but it’s not as dangerous when it was originally conceived. Yet the expansion of Medicare would, presumably be based on Medicare reimbursement rates, and in practice it could very well add more Americans to a government-run health care plan than the “public option” itself.
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