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Fiscal cliff talks focus on Medicare: What could it mean for seniors?

December 18, 2012

As talks to help the United States avoid the fiscal cliff - the name given to a series of spending cuts and tax hikes slated to take effect in 2013 - continue, Medicare has been at the center of the discussion. There have been rumors that the plan could include raising the Medicare age from 65 to 67. Doing so could help save the country money, but what impact could it have on healthy aging and seniors' finances?

The main argument for raising the Medicare age by two years is that it could save approximately $5.7 billion in 2014 alone. While that certainly seems appealing, CBS News notes that those medical expenses will have to be shouldered by someone else. In this case, it will likely be the seniors themselves as well as employer-sponsored healthcare plans. A recent study from Kaiser found that raising the age would likely result in a $3.7 billion increase to expenses for 65 and 66-year-olds.

Raising the Medicare age could also be damaging to seniors' health. Some studies have pointed out that seniors sometimes put off receiving care until they become Medicare eligible. If they have to wait an extra two years, the effects could be even greater. CBS points out that even when the Affordable Care Act goes into effect, there could still be around 435,000 uninsured seniors.

The discussion surrounding Medicare underscores the important role that the senior population will play in the future of the country, with 10,000 people turning 65 each day in the foreseeable future. A recent op-ed published in The New York Times pointed out that Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid spending has been increasing by about 3.7 percent of the GDP.