On expanding Medicare to those from 65 and over to 55 and over

Thursday, December 10, 2009

My favourite statement on the bill that will apparently be introduced in the Senate is this one:

As for the number of people this would affect, let's take a look at the population pyramid for the United States. Back in 1990 it looked like this, with the largest part of the population in their 30s:

Fast forward ten years and it looked like this in 2000:

And then fast forward another five years:

Only one month is left in 2009, so now even this chart is almost five years old, meaning that if a bill passes giving Medicare access to people 55 and over it will begin to take effect right around the time when the current largest part of the population pyramid in the United States begins to hit that age.

So if that happens to be the case and a large voting bloc is suddenly able to receive Medicare ten years before they thought they would be able to, would this benefit the Democrats? I believe the answer is yes, but only in the short term. The reason why can be seen here - ironically, at the moment as soon as a person hits the age of 65 and is now eligible for free health care, their support for government-supported health care drops like a stone. Even those that make almost no money at all and were strongly supportive of a government role in health care become about neutral on the issue as soon as they hit 65.

The difference here would be of course that Medicare was originally passed in 1965 and thus has become a part of daily life, whereas a sudden expansion would be new and would probably be a boon to the Democrats up to perhaps 2016. After that though it would once again become part of daily life and perhaps once again those 55 and over would begin to gripe about budget concerns while enjoying government-provided health care.

Then again, since there are so many baby boomers out there a lowering of the age to 55 may change the public's view on Medicare from that of a government-run program for the elderly to something different, a program for a very large section of the public that is not yet particularly elderly, and has never really tried out government-run health care before. If it works out well then this early taste of government-run health care for those 55 and over plus the already strong support among youth may make the idea of "socialized medicine" less of a bogey monster than it is now.

The bill has not yet been presented yet, however, and even when it passes it will have to be made to fit the previous House bill, so all this is simply speculation. We'll find out soon enough.


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