Medicare for All or Medicare at 50? Expansion of Medicare and Medicaid, Part 1

Medicare at 50 is a bill currently making its way through Congress that would allow anyone over 50 to buy into Medicare. Proponents of the bill want people between the ages of 50 and 65 to be able to purchase a private Medicare health insurance plan and obtain the same tax credits and cost-sharing subsidies as those offered under the Affordable Healthcare Act.

Medicare is a national health insurance program for Americans 65 and older that helps individuals pay for medical care and treatment, including hospitalizations, nursing home care, prescription drugs, and medical supplies and equipment, among others, as they age and retire. Medicare is not free. Seniors pay an annual deductible and are responsible for co-payments and part of their prescription bill.

By and large Americans, of all ages and political denominations, are worried about the availability and affordability of healthcare services. Individuals able to retire are postponing retirement in order to maintain employer sponsored healthcare. Especially if there is a spouse suffering from a chronic illness, the working spouse may need to maintain an employer-sponsored health insurance plan to keep a younger spouse insured.

According to the New York Times, there are at least 10 major proposals, including the Medicare at 50 bill discussed above, to expand Medicare and Medicaid health insurance coverage.

Medicaid is a joint federal and state program that provides health care insurance for individuals with low income. Each state has their own version of Medicaid. There is no age minimum to obtain Medicaid, so long as the individual’s income and assets are under a certain threshold. Medicaid covers children, pregnant women, parents of eligible children, and people with disabilities. Older Americans, with limited financial assets or long-term health care needs, also qualify for and use Medicaid to supplement Medicare coverage in lieu of purchasing additional Medicare Part C or D coverage, which requires the payment of additional premiums, copayments, and possible deductibles before medical care and treatment is covered.

We start the series by discussing the two ideas that are receiving the greatest amount of attention. Below is a list and brief description of the proposals being considered by Congress.

  •        Medicare for All is a set of bills before the Senate and House that would provide every American, regardless of age or financial circumstances, with government paid health insurance. This option would eliminate employer-sponsored health care insurance. The most contentious of the proposals, this option would require a complete overhaul of the healthcare insurance industry. Among the proposals on the table is expanding Medicare coverage to include vision, dental, or prescription drugs benefits.
  •       Medicare and Medicaid Buy-ins proposals before the Senate, would allow individuals to purchase Medicare or Medicaid privately and benefit from cost-savings of shared premiums and costs of medical services. This proposal is trying to attract individuals age 50 and older or those that have not been able to receive healthcare insurance through the Affordable Care Act.

Both the Medicare for All and Medicare and Medicaid Buy-in proposals would eliminate monthly premiums, copayments, and deductibles before coverage kicks in. There is a slight cost for prescription medications, with an annual cap of $200 in out of pocket expenses for insured people.

Check our next post for more on this topic.  

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