The disruption caused to the economy by COVID-19 will create a strong push to let more Americans buy into Medicare!
According to KFF, 2.5 million adults ages 55 to 64 lost their jobs since March, bringing the unemployment rate for this cohort to over 12.5% (was 3.4% prior to March).
A large porting of this cohort won’t find affordable coverage, and a slow recovery will leave many without job-based health coverage for a long time.
- Medicaid will cover many of the newly uninsured, though not in states that haven’t expanded the program.
- The Affordable Care Act will help many others maintain coverage, but those plans often come with high deductibles.
- COBRA is available to people who lost jobs that offered insurance, but it’s almost always prohibitively expensive.
Most of the uninsured in this cohort (millions of Americans) will add new urgency to calls for a Medicare buy-in if Democrats control the White House and Congress in 2021. A narrow option for just this cohort consistently polls better than more complete expansions of public coverage, and older adults are a politically powerful group.
The leading Medicare buy-in plan in Congress would allow people who are older than 50 to purchase Medicare coverage, with a subsidy for low-income enrollees similar to the subsidies in the Affordable Care Act. Former Vice President Joe Biden has proposed a different twist: He would simply lower Medicare’s eligibility age from 65 to 60, without a buy-in.
Some Democrats prefer Medicare for All. Republicans and hospitals have typically opposed all Medicare expansions (but this post-COVID-19 era will demand they learn to make a profit under just Medicare reimbursement!)
The direr the economic and health insurance circumstances of 55-64 year olds turn out to be, the greater the urgency for an early into Medicare is likely to become.