As midterm elections near, young Americans will be in the spotlight. Young Americans have been integral to a number of surprising primary victories across the country. And, for the first time, they will surpass Baby Boomers as the largest generation of Americans eligible to vote.
Medicare is often at the forefront of national discourse. However, much of the discussion tends to ignore young Americans under the assumption that they are not affected by — or do not care about — Medicare's future and the impact of Medicare in their communities. The data suggests otherwise.
More than 10 million young Americans are family caregivers, and their loved ones likely depend on Medicare for medical and financial security. Furthermore, a full 69% of young Americans support a government-funded, Medicare for all healthcare system. Given that the Medicare program already plays a critical role in the lives of families nationwide, many young Americans understand they are affected by Medicare long before they themselves reach old age.
- Parents, Grandparents, Aunts, Uncles, and Disabled Family Members of Young Americans Depend on Medicare—or Will Soon
Medicare has grown into the popular community program it is today because it provides families with peace of mind. Approximately 59 million people have Medicare coverage and most young Americans have family members who are 65 or older and currently rely on the program for low-cost health insurance and financial protection. Without Medicare, many families would be unable to afford health care, doctor visits, or obtain their necessary prescription drugs.
It is also important to remember that Medicare is not just for seniors. The program provides more than nine million Americans under 65, who are disabled or have severe chronic conditions, with the life-saving access to care that they need.
- No, Medicare is NOT Going Broke
Washington policymakers frequently attempt to justify dangerous cuts to Medicare by claiming that it is “insolvent.” Medicare is not broke, going bankrupt, or running out of funds. In fact, the Medicare Trustees Report shows Medicare is currently fully funded to pay out expected costs until 2026, when it will still be able to pay 91% of Medicare hospital insurance costs.
While it is projected that Medicare spending will rise as a percentage of the budget, this is due in part to the Baby Boomer population aging on to Medicare and the recent repeal of the Affordable Care Act’s individual mandate, which was designed to lower costs. In spite of the individual mandate’s repeal, however, Medicare provisions in the Affordable Care Act have improved the program’s economic outlook — extending the solvency of the Medicare Trust Fund eight years longer than before the Affordable Care Act was put into place.
Medicare should not be used as a scapegoat to avoid the underlying problem: the country’s high overall health care costs. Overall health care expenditures per capita in the United States are higher than in any other country, and these expenditures show no signs of slowing. What is needed are constructive solutions that address overall health costs and strengthen Medicare – not proposals that threaten to weaken the program and harm families.
- Tampering with Medicare Puts the Health and Financial Futures of Young Americans and Their Families at Risk
Young Americans have paid into the Medicare system for most of their adult lives; it is only fair that they should expect to receive the same benefits, or better, when they reach old age. Yet, proposals are regularly introduced that would delay young Americans’ access to Medicare and ultimately end the system as we know it.
Medicare consists of both public and private health insurance options that Americans generally become eligible for once they turn 65. To “fix” Medicare, policymakers have continually sought to use two, misguided approaches.
First, some policymakers propose to increase the age of eligibility for Medicare, which could cause a substantial number of families to lose coverage and more still to face skyrocketing healthcare costs.
Second, policymakers propose to turn Medicare over to private insurance companies and replace the program with a system of individual capped vouchers called “premium support.” This would increase out-of-pocket costs and restrict key benefits for families currently receiving Medicare. Such a privatized voucher system would also mean higher co-pays, premiums, and fees once a person actually becomes eligible for Medicare. So private insurance companies would reap windfalls from taxpayer dollars and young Americans would likely pay more to get less.
Variations of these dangerous policy ideas have been championed in recent budget proposals. In addition to attempting to convert Medicare into a system of privatized vouchers to the detriment of families, these budget proposals seek to raise the Medicare age of eligibility anywhere from 67 to 70 years old. These same budget proposals would also repeal the Affordable Care Act entirely, which, as mentioned, has become a boon for the fiscal health of the Medicare program.
If Medicare were radically changed as proposed, young Americans would be forced to shoulder more responsibility for their loved ones’ health care costs at a time when they are also starting their own careers, families, and dealing with ever-increasing student loan debt. It would also take longer for young Americans to become eligible for Medicare and they would likely receive fewer benefits.
Young Americans – especially millions of young caregivers – have a huge stake this election season in what policymakers do with Medicare. Washington policymakers should not be allowed to experiment with Medicare and force the biggest, most dangerous cuts on young Americans and their families.
To help voters understand their candidates' positions on Medicare and health care, the Center for Medicare Advocacy has created a list of 7 Questions to Ask Your Candidate. Whether aged 25 or 65, Americans benefit from the security that Medicare provides families. Everyone should know the facts to help protect Medicare for millions of families, for this and future generation.
- For more information on the value of Medicare, and why we need to #SaveMedicareNow see https://savemedicarenow.org/.
October 10, 2018 – S. Bush
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Millennials: The Emerging Generation of Family Caregivers, AARP (May 2018), available at https://www.aarp.org/content/dam/aarp/ppi/2018/05/millennial-family-caregivers.pdf (site visited Sept. 24, 2018).
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Kaiser Family Foundation, “The Facts on Medicare Spending & Financing,” (Jun. 22, 2018), available at https://www.kff.org/medicare/issue-brief/the-facts-on-medicare-spending-and-financing/ (site visited Sept. 24, 2018).
Center on Budget & Policy Priorities, “Medicare is Not ‘Bankrupt’,” (updated Jul. 3, 2018), available at http://www.cbpp.org/cms/index.cfm?fa=view&id=3532 (site visited Sept. 24, 2018).
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House Budget Committee, “A Brighter American Future: A Balanced Budget for FY2019,” (Jun. 19, 2018); Republican Study Committee, “A Framework for Unified Conservatism,” (Apr. 27, 2018).