Fix Medicare Before It Bankrupts the Country

Forget Medicare for all, there may one day be Medicare for none if we don’t make systemic adjustments.

There are ways to keep the lid on Medicare spending before its becomes unsustainable argues John F. Early, in an op/ed in the Wall Street Journal. The life expectancy for an average 65-year-old has increased about 30% since 1967, the year after Medicare was launched. Early says that the eligibility age to receive Medicare should be gradually increased, so that by 2027 the full retirement age for both Medicare and Social Security will be 67.

There’s also been a fourfold increase since 1972 in the number of Americans qualifying for Medicare because of their disability status.  

“The solution is straightforward,” writes Early, a former assistant commissioner at the Bureau of Labor Statistics. “The government can restore the original disability standard—which has become lax—so that people qualify for benefits only when they are ‘unable to work any job in the economy.’”

He mentions that the Netherlands cut its disability costs by 60% by mandating that people have to undergo a rehabilitation program before getting benefits.

“Adjusting the eligibility age and cutting disability rates could eliminate about 41% of the future growth in Medicare’s resource share,” he writes. “Much of the remaining excess could be cut by raising deductibles and coinsurance.”

Medicare for all is a fantasy, argues Early. Medicare for none might become a horrible reality, if fiscal fixes aren’t initiated.