In every deficit-reduction debate, policymakers look at the Medicare program to see where savings can be found, and the latest fiscal showdown negotiations are no different. There are opportunities to strengthen Medicare while achieving program savings—indeed, the Center for American Progress has put forward $385 billion in savings that would bolster the program without harming seniors. Nevertheless, too many proposals to lower Medicare costs simply shift those costs to seniors, businesses, and states. One such proposal is raising the eligibility age for Medicare from 65 to 67 years old.
Raising the eligibility age would harm seniors even if every state fully implements the Affordable Care Act’s Medicaid expansion. But the proposal poses an even greater threat to low-income seniors now that the Supreme Court’s decision upholding the law rendered the Medicaid expansion optional for states. As we explain below, tens of thousands of low-income 65- and 66-year-olds, who would be cut off from Medicare—particularly the most vulnerable seniors living below the federal poverty level—will have nowhere to turn for coverage if their states reject the Medicaid expansion.