The Pros and Cons of Increasing Medicare Eligibility
January 16, 1998
in this forum:
Is the Medicare proposal a federal government power grab? If the proposal is "revenue neutral", why not expand Medicare? Is there the political will to increase premiums if health care costs continue to rise? Who can afford $3600 to $4000 a year for Medicare? How will this proposal impact health care generally? Will this allow business to start reducing its health coverage? Lynn Brielmaier from Houston, TX asks: Expanding Medicare to younger people, would open up opportunities for even more employers to start taking advantage of the Government picking up the health insurance aspect of labor. Is this a good thing? Is this government subsidized jobs and resulting products, or just astute business? Could this be the beginning of a slippery slope to the end of Employer provided health benefits?
Joseph White responds:
Yes, it could be. A true pessimist, however, would say that we're on the slope already, so this proposal would ease the transition to a non-employer-based system. "Kiddie care", of course, has the same risks. But some employers are already moving towards seriously reducing their coverage for insurance for their employees' dependents.
It's still hard to say what employers will do. Medicare is not as good a plan as most large-employer plans, and employees want that coverage, and employers even in the anti-labor times we're in can't generally afford to alienate their employees so blatantly. And we don't know how the government would react. My guess is that if there were a real rush towards employers dumping health insurance once this program were passed, there would be strong pressures on Congress to respond with some sort of law mandating either that employers provide insurance or contribute to the costs of the Medicare coverage. Fear of such pressures may be one reason that the Republicans seem so adamantly opposed to a proposal that on its face is "revenue neutral" and voluntary.