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How Many People Will Die if We Raise the Medicare Age to 67?

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By Matt Stoller, a fellow at the Roosevelt Institute. You can follow him at http://www.twitter.com/matthewstoller.

In September, 2009, Rep. Alan Grayson got on the floor of the House of Representatives and said that the Republican health care plan – leaving 44 million uninsured – was killing people. It was a famous speech, in which he said that the Republican health care plan consists of two steps. One, don’t get sick. Two, if you do get sick, die quickly. This speech threw the political world into a temporary tizzy, because Grayson actually made the point that health care is about living and dying, not making charts look nicer. The speech, while rhetorically zesty, was data-driven. It relied on this study from Harvard Medical School researchers showing that the death rate for those who are uninsured is 40% higher than those who have insurance (controlling for socioeconomic factors).

So with that in mind, it’s worth asking the question – how many people will die if the Medicare age is increased to 67? To answer this question, we have to make assumptions about other parts of the health care system going forward. Will Obamacare be implemented fully? Will all states accept expanded Medicaid? Will income inequality to continue to increase and make it harder to pay for out of pocket expenses? Will there be tweaks to Medicare or Medicaid in the fiscal cliff or future fiscal cliff-like scenarios?

Even so, we can and should start to understand what the human death toll might be if we increase the retirement age to 67. If the age goes up, there will be 5 million 65 and 66 year olds who can’t get Medicare for at least a year (7 million for at least a month), and will have to rely on some other system for health care payments. Kaiser has a study out on what would happen to Medicare if the eligibility age goes to 67, but with the assumption that Obamacare kicks in and covers all 66 and 67 year olds with a mixture of employer/retiree insurance, Medicaid, or insurance through exchanges. We can assume, however, that some of these seniors will be uninsured. The Congressional Budget Office says that this number, by 2020, will be 5% (see page 6). The Center for Budget and Policy Priorities, and fairly centrist think tank which supports cutting Social Security, provides the rationale.

In reality, however, many of these 65- and 66-year-olds are likely to end up uninsured.  Some of those eligible for premium credits in the exchanges would not enroll because they would regard the required premium contribution as too high; people with incomes between 300 and 400 percent of the poverty level (about $34,500 to $46,000 for an individual in 2014) will have to pay 9.5 percent of their income — $3,300 to $4,400 — for exchange coverage.  Even some of those eligible for more generous premium credits or for Medicaid would likely fail to obtain coverage; participation in means-tested programs like Medicaid falls far short of that in social insurance programs like Medicare, in part because of the difficulties navigating the application process.

In addition, many 65- and 66-year-olds who would be ineligible for Medicaid or premium credits because their incomes exceeded $46,000 would find unsubsidized coverage in the exchange to be out of reach.  According to Kaiser, half of 65- and 66-year-olds who would have to rely on the exchange would have incomes too high for premium credits.  Because exchange plans could charge the oldest workers three times as much as the youngest, unsubsidized premiums could reach $10,000 to $12,000 (in 2014 terms) for 65- and 66-year-old individuals and twice that for couples.

How many of the 5 million affected elderly would go uninsured due to a lack of Medicare availability? And how many of those would die as a result of lacking insurance? Let’s make a very generous assumption, and say that Obamacare kicks in fully by 2014, and all governors accept Medicaid expansion. In fact, let’s assume Obamacare works so well that the entire country becomes like Massachusetts (where the system is already in place), with an uninsurance rate of 4%. This rate is lower than that assumed by the CBO, so it’s fairly cautious. In addition, this assumption entirely overlooks the institutional culture of Massachusetts where uninsurance rates were already lower than the norm prior to the implementation of Romneycare, the fact that every stakeholder in the state wanted to make it work, and that MA has a better health care system than most other states. But we’ll go with it.

At a 4% uninsurance rate, that’s 200,000 uninsured 65 and 66 year olds. The death rate for people in that age bracket is 1.576% annually, which means that 3152 of them would die as a matter of course. If the death rate is 40% higher for the uninsured in this bracket, which would be consistent with the Harvard Medical School study on working age populations, then this means that 1261 seniors will die because they don’t have access to Medicare. This number comes from back of the envelope but reasonably cautious assumptions. If Obamacare doesn’t work as advertised, or out of pocket costs for insured seniors go up (and they will), the number of dead goes up. In fact, if Obamacare doesn’t work, is repealed, or defunded, the uninsurance rate for 66 and 67 year olds would be about 15%, consistent with the rate for 50-64 year olds.  That’s 6048 dead. In other words, raising the Medicare age to 67 while implementing Obamacare will kill an additional 1261 seniors, while raising the Medicare age to 67 without implementing Obamacare will kill an additional 1261 seniors. Or we could leave things as they are, with a Medicare age at 65, and no extra seniors need die.

Remember, this isn’t a story of heartbreak and sadness. It’s a story of murder by policy. Medicare isn’t a welfare system where people are getting charity from the state, it’s a social insurance system that these people have already paid for. Increasing the eligibility age for Medicare isn’t shared sacrifice is simply confiscating the property that people prepaid for and that they need to stay alive. Morally, it’s no different than choosing 1261 people aged 65 and 66, disproportionately picking more black and/or poor people, and killing them so that you don’t have to honor the promise they paid for that they would get health care at 65.

Next time you hear someone talk about the need to “reform entitlements” and raising the retirement age, just remember what these words actually mean.

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77 comments

  1. Mary Bess

    Where is the outrage? Why aren’t people occupying Congress, circling the White House? It IS about life or death.

    1. Anonymous

      Thousands of seniors murdered in cold blood.

      It’s more U.S. citizens killed than 9/11.

      Where is the outrage of the Christians? Where is the outrage of the compassionate conservatives?

      And where is the outrage of the God damn pro life lobby?

      If there is a pro life issue then this is one.

      1. patrick k

        Oh please! Everything is a trade off. The theory behind the bump of two years is longevity and solvency for the millions covered. A broke system helps no one. Every year 25k are killed in auto accidents and 100′s of thousands maimed. We know that as we produce each car but the trade offs make the transaction worthwhile. Obama even bailed out GM to keep the caskets filled! If the solvency of medicare etc comes at the cost of 10k dead, it’s a done deal.

        1. curlydan

          Please, “Oh, Please”, start to do some deeper analysis. In addition to Matt’s arguments using conservative assumptions, he hasn’t addressed here the additional cost of raising the Medicare age two years. It’s been estimated to save the Feds $5B while _raising_ costs $11B, a net $6B wasted. This is another transfer of money to private insurers that makes no financial sense.

          You appear to be advocating a change that would cost us $6B more in health care spending, lead to a higher death rate, and push some 66-yr old married couples earning $50K+ to spend $20K to $24K a year in premiums. Thank God my parents are 67+, so they don’t have to deal with this B.S.

        2. damian

          let the trade off start with you! as long as we are playing with other people it all works im sure

          i have a friend who lost his insurance coverage at 63 and elected to not have any insurance because the premiums were enormous – he had cancer ten years before – one month before Medicare eligibility at 65 he had severe headaches and double vision – went to the emergency room did a cat scan and they couldnt find anything – cat scans are not that reliable – he waits thirty days

          he hasnt paid the bill for the emergency room – trying to work out a payment solution – which was $3,500 – he then gets on Medicare and they do tests and find a tumor which has been operated on and resolved.

          if it wasnt for Medicare im sure the tumor would have grown to potentially be unmanageable at 67 when under this proposal he would then qualify

          so there would be massive deaths and other effects from this deferral -

          the Republican Plan – Murder by Neglect for 160 million people over the next 40 years – they want you gone without SS, Medicare or raising the cost where cant be afforded for millions

          1. Waking Up

            How can you call this the “Republican plan” when Barack Obama specifically and many other Democrats are pushing it? This is the Republican AND Democratic parties bi-partisan plan.

        3. fran

          Increased longevity is only among the affluent. Among the rest of the population, longevity is decreasing in the US.

          So, it is the affluent who start paying in later, and for whom Medicare will have to pay for over a longer period of time.

        4. jrs

          You know that argument would be somewhat more convincing if we hadn’t traded off to have wars and rich people bailouts and stuff instead.

    2. Nathanael

      We don’t have the right organization, we don’t have the right focus yet, and also probably not enough people are desperate yet. The last successful human rings around the White House were from the Women’s Rights Movement, which was a stupendous feat of organization with a lot of very implacable people devoted to one cause.

      I think Spain will see the overthrow of the government within a couple of years, because they are more organized *and* have more desperate people in a smaller space. The US, well, it *needs work*.

  2. Robert Dudek

    I think every industrialized country in the world just shakes a collective head when looking at the situation in US healthcare: how can such a rich country have such a stupid healthcare system?

    1. southsunflower

      How? Greed, the pure greed of corporations, the insurance industry as a whole, big pharma and the political class. It’s past time to speak up loudly and vote as you speak.

    2. jrs

      The only consequences are supposed to be for old people (yea some old people will die ho hum), but really why would any person in their prime productive years, with other options, choose to stay in this country when they know that *that* is there fate when they get older? Why not if in your good productive years move somewhere where you whole life and lifespan looks at least decently bright, not somewhere where your final years will be spent in abject poverty? And hey enjoy some real vacations in the meantime because you aren’t stuck with two weeks. Why should the best and brightest want to stay in a banana republic? That cost? They also will never count it!

  3. Moneta

    Medicare isn’t a welfare system where people are getting charity from the state, it’s a social insurance system that these people have already paid for
    ——–
    Young doctors graduating with 100K in debt have already gotten paid for their work?

    We can throw our entire GDP into health care and people are still going to get sick and die.

    Health care is without doubt grossly mismanaged but the reality is that we are going to have to make decisions in what gets treated and what does not if we don’t want to go bust.

    1. Jefemt

      Article also doesn’t state how much the retention of age 65 versus the bump to age 67 will cost, divided by the number of increased dead. The grizzly actuarial formula we Dare Not Print. Yep, we are all gonna die. Can we have a compassionate society, comfortable caring hospice, and NOT liquidate family wealth in the last six months of life? Doctors and debt… What is the motivation of a US-based aspirational Med student? Big income? House? Freedom? Prestige? Interesting work? Helping folks with health issues? What is the aspirtational motivation of the med students counterpart in a ‘socialized’ health care country, like the UK, or France–where they assuredly have a cap on income? No answers, but LOTS of questions… We sure choose to spend a lot on guns, drones, ships, a military welfare state, and that growing unfunded liability of the care we have guaranteed to provide to that growing military welfare class. We seem to be unwilling to spend it on the funders of that military welfare state- the taxpayers. Social justice? The notion of gauging a society by how it treats its adolescents and its elderly? We’re Number One! Team Amerika, hell yeah !!

      1. Moneta

        You touched the essence… the psychology of spending.

        The dependency ratio might stay flat, more or less, over the next few decades but we will be asking the 35-55 group to flip their spending from the young to the old.

        Frankly, that is not a very attractive option… spending on baby diapers generates better mental images than spending on adult diapers. Spending on the young feels like spending on future growth. Spending on the old does not conjure such images. Especially in a youth centered society… that the boomers promoted!

        We will be asking the young to forgo their nice houses, cars, consumer lives to fund services that are not so attractive, forgetting that they grew up in abundance amid a cult of the young.

        Historically, those who can work have always fared better than those who can not.

      2. Art Eclectic

        “Can we have a compassionate society, comfortable caring hospice, and NOT liquidate family wealth in the last six months of life?”

        We can if we learn to accept death as a part of the circle of life. End of life care is where the problem ultimately lies – over 30% of Medicare funds are spent in the last year of life. Right now, society is not willing let people go gently, we continue to throw massive amounts of technology and care at people who are simply not going to recover. No one recovers from old age.

        One of the inherent problems with the medical technology that we’ve amassed is that we can do things that were unimaginable even 20 years ago. But that has also come at a cost and that cost is eating budgets alive at the Federal, State, and personal level.

        Either we are going to offer ourselves gold plated care from cradle to grave and live with the tax consequences or we are going to have to make some hard choices that involve rationing of life-saving technology.

        1. Denise B

          Yeah, we could save so much money if we just stopped treating sick people. Many of them will die anyway, so why bother?

          The implication in these discussions about how much money is spent in the last year of life is that all those deaths were foreseeable, but they weren’t. Most old people have health problems and receive treatments for them. Most of them will therefore have had medical expenses in the last year of life that could be considered in retrospect to have been wasted. But that doesn’t mean that they were known to be hopelessly terminally ill when they were treated. I have many elderly relatives and friends who have been living with serious health problems for years. Like the rest of us, they may or may not have years left to live.

          My mother just had major surgery at 90 for a condition that would have killed her. She recovered well and is cured. She could very well live another 10 years in good health – or she could die tomorrow; but if she does, that doesn’t mean her surgery was a waste of money.

          And let’s not forget that the medical costs in the last year of life also include young people with expensive illnesses. Should we stop treating them once we decide that they’re likely to die anyway, or does this only apply to old people?

          1. Art Eclectic

            Actually, you just made my point. Either we are going to offer everyone an unlimted buffet of modern medicine and accept the tax consequences or we are going to have to ration care.

            Choose.

          2. Denise B

            I am not going to choose to decide that some people’s lives don’t have value. By all means let’s not foist unwanted care on terminally ill people. But other than that, yes, I say let’s provide care to everyone.

            As long as we have money for lawn fertilizer and pet rocks and all the other crap we buy, then we have money to treat sick people. If we don’t, then we don’t deserve to call ourselves human beings.

      3. LucyLulu

        Had you read the comment by curlydan a few comments above your own, you would know that insuring those who are 65 and 66 will cost $5 billion annually, while raising the age to 67 will cost $11 billion annually to the various parties the costs are shifted upon. This includes younger folks who will have these older people retained in their employee insurance plans and see their premiums rise. What a deal. The only benefit to raising the age is a political one…… a trophy the fiscal hawks can claim. Economically it is foolish.

    2. southsunflower

      You are right. It must be managed, but it must be managed in the interests of the people it serves – patients. Yes, it must also be managed in the interests of keeping the care system efficient, responsive and strong. I don’t include excessive profit as a “strength” .

    3. Cynthia

      Although medical-school graduates are saddled with enormous debt due to high tuition costs, their residence training is fully paid for through the Medicare Trust Fund. There is no other profession that I can think of, besides a few professions in the military, whereby the on-the-job training is fully paid for by the taxpayer, so it’s very hard for me have any sympathy for any medical-school graduate who’s up to their eyeballs in tuition debt.

      And since many medical residents can afford to buy a house and keep a spouse and a newly born baby at home on a residence salary, their take-home pay can’t be all that low. From what I’ve read, their salary range is from $45,000 to $65,000. The taxpayer doesn’t subsidize the training of nursing-school or pharmacy-school grads, much less the training of engineering or computer science grads, then the taxpayer shouldn’t be subsidizing the training medical-school grads.

      1. Moneta

        Something tells me you are looking in the rearview mirror as those graduating with lots of debt will not fare as well as past generations of doctors.

  4. PauW

    Does it surprise you? In a world that is running out of resources (in the vaster term – including jobs, arable lands, democracy, etc) the best way to ensure that The Few Who Can get all their fill (and more) is to make sure that most of the undeserving population dies off quickly, cleanly, without making too much of a fuss.
    So welcome to lifelong employment (ergo die at your desk, or while cooking burgers), high medical costs (chemotherapy @ $1’000 a day?), chemically “improved” (= poisoned) food supplies, and so on.
    Remember the last SARS scare? WHO had decided that those above 43 years of age were ineligible for vaccination – unless they held some kind of high office, or some kind of hyper-necessary technical specialisation.
    Brave New World, indeed…

  5. Moneta

    When is everyone going to realize that a huge percentage of the money they spent over the last few decades was grossly misallocated.

    Their wealth is sitting in housing, cars, plastic surgery, golf courses, hotels, spas, bix boxes, deteriorating infra, the dump…

    People should have thought of this in the 90s. They didn’t. They thought they would be able to eat bricks in their old age.

    Maybe one day people will understand that you don’t mass invest in McMansions to fund your retirement years but in the firms that offer the services you will need.

  6. Won't Get Fooled Again

    Look, our government is captured, our political system rewards the most unscrupulous, and our economic structure favors con-men. If you are still shocked by the corruption, lies and hypocrisy, you just haven’t been paying attention. It should come as no surprise that a social service which people have paid for in advance will be cut back, or even denied entirely, by those who have risen to the top of our social hierarchy. What was that thing George W. used to say? “Fool me once…”

    To me, this is pretty much what it comes down to. If you are still paying your taxes at this late date in our history, thinking that doing so entitles you to ANY benefits or protections, you are simply a fool. Shame on you.

    Not only does the government not need your taxes to pay for social security, medicare, etc., paying your taxes in no way guarantees you anything (Cf. our contemporary austerity debate). If you continue to pay for a service despite knowing that the provider is unreliable and corrupt, and said provider then screws you out of that for which you have paid in advance, who’s fault is it?

    Just stop. It’s easier than you think. Starve the beast…

    But you won’t. You’re scared of the IRS and concerned about your reputation.

    The elites don’t play by rules, but the chumps always will: that’s why they are the chumps.

    Mundus vult decipi

    1. Moneta

      People can argue until they are blue in the face that they paid and should get it but it was evident a long time ago that the money would not be there.

      I entered the workforce in the early 90s and I realized from the get go that the money would not be there. If you want dinner you buy food, you don’t buy bricks.

      Most investments over the last 20 years were based on short-termism and on youth centered consumerism with not much regard for old age planning.

      1. diptherio

        “I entered the workforce in the early 90s and I realized from the get go that the money would not be there. If you want dinner you buy food, you don’t buy bricks.”–Moneta

        I think the point is, when you realize the money won’t be there, stop paying taxes. Bricks are a better investment than taxes since their benefits (shelter, ad-hoc projectiles) are at least corporeal, where as the benefits of paying taxes are considerably less so.

    2. Neo-Realist

      As a person who isn’t surprised, the we (with chump resources) can’t afford the gold plated attorney’s to keep us out of the klink, unlike the elites, if we don’t pay up to the IRS.

      That being said, the aware without the resources are outnumbers by the unaware chumps who vote against their interests for the people that keep this system in place.

      Bricks could be a good investment. Just make sure you aim above the riot shield, then run like hell.

      1. Barmitt O'Bamney

        Looking for a good investment? I have the answer: Catfood!

        For some with surplus capital, catfood as an equity play or as a hoarded commondity will be the path to fabulous riches, and a hedge against inflation of the currency. For many more though, investing in stockpiles of catfood now, while it’s still relatively cheap, will mean the difference between death at retirement + 1 year, and death at retirement + 5 years. Either way, catfood is the future. Some will speculate in it, some will hoard it and others will be it.

    3. jrs

      The IRS, do you have a clue what you are talking about? Medicare is paid for by payroll taxes, no way to get out of those if you have a job.

    1. Matt Stoller Post author

      Nah, that’s not why he lost. It might have pushed the tally up or down a few percentage points, but it was a wave election and nothing would have helped a Democrat running in that district.

  7. Norman

    At some point in time here, the choice will be down to “two”, either bend over and spread those fat cheeks, or pass the amunition, we’ve had enough. Your choice.

  8. briansays

    the private insurance cabal coupled with a mandate is the problem not the solution–an extraneous layer of waste and greed that extracts dollars that could go to care which instead go to bloated salaries, shareholders and overhead

    oh, and buying politicians to perpetuate their roll

  9. Eureka Springs

    How many people would live and live much better lives if/when eligibility is established at date of birth?

    I think this type of question/framing is a much more important stance since the chopping block at hand is a done deal. We need to wage a battle worth winning over the long haul.

    I appreciate what Grayson and Matt then and Matt now are saying /doing… but the study itself tied you all into utilizing an insurance framing…. insurance is not care. And it’s my understanding that the eligibility age is already set to rise to 66. And that none of this will actually lower costs, but raise them.

    http://theincidentaleconomist.com/wordpress/monkeying-with-the-medicare-eligibility-age/

    1. Lambert Strether

      One of the demands should be, if we actually had a Democratic Party somewhere to the left of Bismark (who established tie first social insurance program) would be to end this shabby business of gradually degrading Social Security for new entrants. Benefits should be benefits regardless of age. Lowering eligibility to 60 would be a good start and would free up some jobs for the kids.

    2. Linden

      Absolutely. The question isn’t just, “How many additional seniors will die?” but “How many already do?” There are many uninsured people who die before hitting retirement age, who would have lived if they’d had access to medical care. I suspect the death toll is particularly bad for people in their 50s. They’ve been alive long enough to have racked up preexisting conditions that make them uninsurable, or uninsurable at a price they can afford, but they can’t quite make it to 65.

  10. Mannwich

    I think for many who are able, the answer will be to leave the country. Which, of course, is what many of our so called leaders probably want to happen.

  11. Mary Bess

    Responding to charges that his “machine” was corrupt, Chicago Mayor Richard J. Daley said, “If da people of Chicago want reform, de’ll ged it.”

    Government is neither inherently good or evil. It’s as good as we demand or as evil as we will tolerate.

    When Greedsters hear defeatist comments like “I knew the money would never be there for me,” they know they’ve won. Are you going to let them have your country or are you going to take it back?

    1. Moneta

      For a decade I told people to stop consuming so much. They laughed in my face.

      It’s not defeatist. It’s karma.

      1. jrs

        They probably still feel a darn sight smarter than those who invested in the stock market and lost it all in 08.
        Or those who invested in overpriced houses. At least they had some good times from their money decisions. Or hey, put it in a bank account, the interest rate is less than 1% by government (well FED anyway) policy. What about all the old people that planned on living with the help of bank interest. Sucks to be them eh? They should have been Warren Buffet instead.

        Whatever, you know, when people not only have to defer consumption to save which may not be unreasonable for those that have the incomes, but also have to be investment geniuses in order not to eat cat food in old age, your system is hopelessly screwed, sorry, that’s about all anyone can say about it. As if all people working, commuting, raising families or whatever are supposed to spend all their free time reading stock gurus or something. Ridiculous.

        1. Moneta

          My message is not really one of deferring consumption but one of misallocation of capital and the ones who are most to blame for our current situation are those who had more than what it takes to make ends meet.

          We could have spent our time and energy on more long term rewarding endeavours but somehow the population has been brainwashed into thinking that more expensive stuff will make them happier than the attention of people who care.

          Interestingly, after thousands of years, people still don’t get it!

          Instead of wasting money on cars and oversized houses, we could have maintained our infrastructure and other institutions that would be dear to us in the future.

          1. Aquifer

            You have a point – if we know we will have to sleep under a bridge in the future we should make sure it is a well maintained one …

          2. Me

            Who the hell is this “we” you are talking about? You seem to talk to lots of people with big houses and nice cars. I’m a lowly working stiff who rents. I haven’t spent my ass off. I’m in school, trying to keep my head above water. In this horrible economy, I’ll be lucky to make enough surplus to pay back my student loan debt.

            Maybe stop having this round table discussions in your gated community or wherever the hell you live and slum it for a day. Talk to poor folks working hard and struggling. Then take a look at our system vs. other health care systems in industrialized countries. They have market economies, they sometimes buy lots of crap and they don’t have our problems.

            If you look at health care, the same problem exists there that exists in many other issues. Rich sociopaths control the political system, the two parties and all policies the elites create flow through the brains of these rat bastards. We need a good old fasioned class war, clean house.

          3. Moneta

            The we in this case is society.

            And if you read my post again you will notice that I am blaming the top 15-20% for our current ills, not those who are barely making ends meet.

            However, I will mention that I am living well below my means and am surrounded by people who should not be living in this area when compared to their income. It just seems to me that a huge percentage in every income level stretched a little more than they should have…

          4. Me

            Well, I don’t disagree that we consume too much, that we do so because of capitalist propaganda and marketing and that this is environmentally destructive and irrational. However, that would describe countries with single payer systems as well. They don’t have the problems we do in health care, but they do have giant corporations, a market economy, private ownership of the means of production, labor markets and the like. So they are capitalist countries, but more social democratic capitalist countries. With health care, the issue isn’t saving enough for health care needs later in life. Its an inefficient system that fails to cover tens of millions of people. It even fails many people who HAVE insurance. The problem isn’t individuals, its collective and systematic.

    2. Moneta

      My point is that I have been warning people around me that the money would not be there and we should act differently.

      They still bought their luxury cars, big houses and splurged on multiples tripse per year. They never stopped thiking I was just a pessimist.

      So I did my thing, set up my life around the fact that the money would not be there…. and you are calling me a defeatist?

      1. Linden

        And all that time, they were also paying into Medicare. None of this has anything to do with whether Medicare exists. That’s a political question.

        1. Nathanael

          Personal fortification is not useful. Group fortification — getting a whole town together and forming a militia — is another matter. I haven’t done it, of course.

          1. Moneta

            I’ve been planning a form of group fortification but it won’t happen until there is some kind of awakening… which is still far out in Canada.

            Teachers here are protesting the loss of sick days unaware that it’s most probably only a beginning.

  12. Ché Pasa

    Homicidal cruelty is institutionalized in too many aspects of the Great American Enterprise. Medical care is no exception.

    The ongoing project to restrict access to medical care is not going to end whether or not the Medicare eligibility age is increased. It has little or nothing to do with budgets or actuarial charts and graphs. It has to do with intent.

    Yes, x-number of seniors will die as a result of raising the Medicare eligibility age. More dead seniors is the intent. Since infant mortality is already at scandalous levels in this country, the “balanced approach” naturally calls for higher levels of senior mortality, doesn’t it?

    1. AnnieB

      “It has little or nothing to do with budgets or actuarial charts and graphs. It has to do with intent.”

      Exactly. Policy is always about intent, and if you raise the SS and Medicare eligibility age, the result is lowered life expectancy rates for those in their mid-sixties. There can be no denial as to the intent in this case.

  13. CJ

    How on earth does the writer leap from his medicare analysis to “disproportionately picking more black.. people, and killing them?”

  14. enraged

    ‘So with that in mind, it’s worth asking the question – how many people will die if the Medicare age is increased to 67?’

    Answer: 100%. It’s not a question of “if” but of “when”. And the difference does not lie in how early people get medicare but rather in how well they took care of themselves in the 65, 66 or 67 years preceding their eligibility to medicare. Once again, a big deal is being made of something fairly inconsequential…

    1. TK421

      Ridiculous. Do you deny that uninsured people die at a much higher rate? Because otherwise it is the height of foolishness to think that elderly people, who need more medical care than anyone else already, won’t die if they are denied health insurance.

    2. ShMagus

      I’d like to revisit your opinion when you’re in your late 50s/early 60s and would like to live a little longer but aren’t eligible for Medicare.

      Like they said above, this is about intent. When our lawmakers can’t be bothered to care about people in the lower tax brackets, there’s a serious breakdown of policy.

    3. hb

      There is no serious correlation between people’s longevity & “how well they took care of themselves” when young.

      In my own immediate family there is the aunt who died in her forties of cirrhosis (she was a strict teetotaler, normal weight, the cause was genetic); the cousin (normal weight, no drugs or alcohol, runner) who had breast cancer in her thirties and a heart attack (likely an effect of heavy chemo) in her 40s; the cousin who got MS in her 50s (also teetotaler, normal weight); the grandfather who died of heart attack at 45 (normal weight, non-smoker, non-drinker).

      Then there was the uncle who drank & smoked heavily, developed a pot belly in his later years, never went to a doctor because he didn’t trust them, & died at 89.

      When you’re in your twenties and thirties you think all your special diets & exercise will keep you young forever. Once you hit 50 you learn it just ain’t so.

  15. Tom Parsons

    What is the diagnosis, and what the prognosis, for a nation whose government’s solemn promises are worth so little?

    1. jrs

      Since everything, consent of the governed (even in a tyranical police state, which we are fast becoming), a functioning economy, social behavior, why even the currency itself, ultimately relies on trust … I don’t know, not good?

  16. Hugh

    “raising the Medicare age to 67 while implementing Obamacare will kill an additional 1261 seniors, while raising the Medicare age to 67 without implementing Obamacare will kill an additional 1261 seniors”

    the part in bold should read:

    “raising the Medicare age to 67 without implementing Obamacare will kill an additional 6048 seniors”

    With or without medical insurance, those in low wage physically demanding occupations, often minority, often women are likely to experience higher death and morbidity rates from working an extra two years in these occupations.

    As for the money, it has always been there, just not for ordinary Americans. It has been there for tax cuts for the rich, for endless, senseless wars, for multi-trillion dollar bank bailouts. It’s just not there for you and me.

    I would note again for the record that health insurance does not equal health care. Obamacare means many people will be forced to pay exorbitant amounts for crap coverage they can’t afford to use. This equates to an effective subsidy for the insurance companies.

    Along these lines, the real litmus test for healthcare as opposed to health insurance is Medicare for All. While some will die or become sicker than they would otherwise because of the increase in the entrance age for Medicare from 65-67, many, many more are going to die just as a function of Obamacare being an insurance system run for the benefit of the insurance companies, Big Pharma, and Big Medical, rather than a healthcare system run for our benefit.

    Finally, I have to admit to a certain uncomfortability when I read that Medicare or Social Security or whatever is prepaid or insurance, etc. This is not and should not be about the money, merit, or entitlement: the argument that X paid for Y and so merits or is entitled to Y. These programs are about social commitments we have made to each other, about the kind of society we want to have and be a part of. When we reduce this all to dollars and cents, we concede 90% of the argument. That is why our elites love to cast the discussion in terms of money, because as soon as we accept to debate on these terms, we’ve lost and they’ve won. They can then spend the rest of their time, as with the eligibility age, winnowing and shaving down that final 10%.

    1. Waking Up

      Hugh:

      If only there were more people with your level of compassion, this country would be a better place. Thank you for caring.

    2. Ché Pasa

      When we reduce this all to dollars and cents, we concede 90% of the argument.

      This is the point that must be made over and over and over again, relentlessly.

    3. JTFaraday

      “Finally, I have to admit to a certain uncomfortability when I read that Medicare or Social Security or whatever is prepaid or insurance, etc. This is not and should not be about the money, merit, or entitlement: the argument that X paid for Y and so merits or is entitled to Y.”

      It should be clear from the historical understanding and people’s understanding today that we made no such commitment.

      The meme that it is the “right wing” that is, and has been, opposed to the New Deal only obscures the fact that the New Deal was (and is) as racist and masculinist as the job market of its (and our) day.

      We still find this producerist vs. parasite thinking in (almost) every corner of our politics, even though we should know by now that today’s producer is only tomorrow’s parasite.

      If people want a safety net for old age, it should be a real safety net–not a senile echo of whatever the job market of your day happened to be.

      Today, rhe New Deal safety net is a victim of its own logic and a victim of the culture it helped create.

      As far as health care is concerned, that too is a byproduct of the producerist mentality of the New Deal era of managed capitalism. Large employers provided healthcare to male heads of families on the job so the state didn’t have to provide it to people who weren’t so quick to toe the corporatist line– or, equally likely and sometimes more, who weren’t permitted to toe it no matter how hard they tried.

      I’m not in favor of attacking the New Deal programs, but I’m not going to lie about it either.

  17. Aquifer

    Methinks the really legitimate question to ask is how many more will die if we don’t reduce the age of eligibility of Medicare to -9mo?

  18. Kate60456

    Oh my! What about the Department of Defense spending? Cut it all. Why would we want to take care of each other? I know I am simplifying this, but we all should be in the streets asking for basic human rights for all.

  19. Dan Kervick

    We could save billions if we just turn people over 70 into Soylent Green and be done with them. Not only would we reduce our health care costs and same Medicare from insolvency, but we could provide a tasty, nutritious and low-cost snack to the unemployed, and get rid of food stamps too.

  20. Kunst

    Everybody dies, regardless. Quality is more important than quantity. The last year of life is a net negative for many people.

  21. g3

    The real death panels. [Sarah Palin, where art thou when we really need you?]. We need to frame this “proposal” away to hell.

  22. Paul

    You may receive SS benefits at age 62.5 but the benefits are reduced. The pot of money is the same you just get a smaller slice since the pot is divided over a longer period of time. i.e. present value of periodic payments (n).

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