Medicare At 55 Act - Proposal Gaining Steam In 2019

By: Agnus Smith
Published: Wednesday, January 09 2019
Last Updated: 10 months ago

There’s a proposal that could change the landscape of American healthcare being floated around right now, and 2019 may be the year it finally picks up the steam it needs. Known as the Medicare at 55 Act, the bill could vastly expand the current number of Medicare beneficiaries.

With the current push for universal healthcare, it’s no surprise that the Medicare at 55 bill is being touted as an affordable alternative both parties can get behind. Yes, certain individuals already qualify for Medicare before they reach 65 years old, but this bill would, essentially, help some of America’s most vulnerable population get access to the care they need.

Regardless of whether or not Medicare at 55 is a step towards Medicare for All, we’re gonna take a look at what this bill could mean for the current state of healthcare in the US, and more specifically, what it could mean for you. Here’s everything you need to know about what will surely be a major talking point in 2019.

What Is The Medicare At 55 Act?

The Medicare at 55 Act is a new bill that would lower the age for Medicare eligibility to 55 years. It’s also a way for the Democrats to offer a healthcare compromise by expanding public healthcare programs and regain momentum, power, and control over this issue. The bill author, Senator Debbie Stabenow (Democrat from Michigan) said that the legislation was a “way we [both parties] can work together on a bipartisan basis to lower healthcare and prescription drug costs.

Who’s Behind 55 Medicare Proposal?

On August 3rd, 2017 Senate Bill 1742, called the Medicare at 55 Act, was introduced by Senator Debbie Stabenow. She received immediate support from Democratic Senators Tammy Baldwin (Wisconsin), Sherrod Brown (Ohio), Al Franken (Minnesota), Patrick Leahy (Vermont), Jeff Merkley (Oregon), Jack Reed (Rhode Island) and Sheldon Whitehouse (Rhode Island). Many see this as a new strategy to offer healthcare coverage to replace some of the lost coverage after President Trump's rejection of Obamacare.

How Much Would The Proposal Cost?

The proposal might allow more individuals to buy into Medicare, which could increase the government's revenue. Moreover, lowering the eligibility age by nearly 10 years would help the elderly get valuable coverage immediately.

Many Obamacare healthcare marketplaces are struggling. Since Trump ended subsidies helping low-income individuals on October 12, 2017, the idea of lowering the Medicare age to 55 might be seen as a safety net. The near-elderly of 55 to 64 could help healthcare marketplaces regain stability.

The good news is that healthcare coverage for anyone above 55 in Medicare would be universal, which may justify an increase in the Medicare payroll tax. Although, many believe that Medicare at 55 must be paid for by the younger generation. Early estimates are that the buy-in for near-elderly individuals of 55 to 64 would be about $8,200 per year. This is likely to change after negotiations.

Can You Currently Buy Into Medicare At 55?

Most Americans must wait until the age of 65 to qualify for Medicare. But, there are a few special circumstances when coverage could begin earlier. These are the primary reasons why someone under 65 years old might become eligible for Medicare:

  • Kidney Failure
  • Lou Gehrig's Disease (ALS)
  • Other Disability

These special circumstances all fall under the category of disability. Those with Permanent End-Stage Renal Disease - Kidney Failure Requiring Dialysis might still need to enroll in Medicare. People with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) - Lou Gehrig's Disease - are enrolled in Medicare automatically when their Social Security benefits start. On the 25th month of Railroad Retirement Board (RRB) disability, or Social Security (SS) disability coverage, some individuals are automatically enrolled.

How Medicare At 55 Differs From Medicare For All

Medicare at 55 might be useful for the long-term unemployed, who no longer qualify for benefits. It is a step towards universal healthcare coverage but only adds those aged 55 to 64.

Of course, since this is still a proposal, there are many important details that must be ironed out. Specifically, the Medicare at 55 proposals would require the Secretary of Health & Human Services (HHS) to create enrollment periods and monthly premiums. The plan is to invest the premiums in the Hospital Insurance & Supplementary Medical Insurance Trust Funds.

The healthcare proposal would lower the age at which people could start to receive coverage, but it would not apply to all age groups. Medicare for All (universal healthcare coverage) would be available to Americans of all ages. Nevertheless, the previous supporters of Obamacare believe that this could be a step in the right direction.

Americans could buy into Medicare at 55, giving them freedom and moving closer to a single-payer healthcare system. It could continue to increase the number of Americans, who would have public healthcare coverage. This is a Democratic lifeline to many who invested in healthcare companies to support Obamacare.