Americans are living longer, and this has meant not only an increase in the population of older adults, but also a financial strain on Social Security and Medicare. To combat this, Republicans put forward a plan to raise the eligibility age of Social Security and Medicare to 70. But there are those who have reservations about changing the age of eligibility. Believing that it will create hardship for older Americans, especially low-income seniors.
Why the Push?
Republicans believe changes need to be made to Social Security and Medicare because of projected funding shortfalls. The Social Security trust fund is projected to be depleted by 2035. When that happens, benefits paid would be cut to around 75% to 80% of their full amount.
Medicare is also facing funding shortfalls. According to the June 2022 Medicare trustees report, the Medicare Hospital Insurance trust fund will run out of money in 2028. If things continue at their current pace. If this trust fund is depleted, and Medicare does go “belly up”, the program will not have enough revenue to cover all of its operating costs.
In order to combat funding issues for both of these programs, Republicans want to cut spending. Their plan for doing this is to reduce the number of years seniors can claim these benefits. Which is why they are looking to raise the age of eligibility for both.
President Biden is pushing against the proposals. But Democrats are facing headwinds as voters weigh the highest inflation in 40 years and other economic issues.
Fewer Years of Benefits
If Republicans win this fight and the age of eligibility is raised to 70. Seniors who claim Social Security at ages 66 and 67 will miss 3-4 years of benefits. Compared with current retirees or those who opt to claim benefits earlier. And if seniors choose to claim benefits earlier than 70, they will face a permanent reduction in benefits. Retiring three years earlier than the full retirement age would equate to a 20% decline in monthly benefits. According to the Social Security Administration.
“That means that for even those people who work to age 70, you never catch up with the cut in benefits,” said Nancy Altman, the president of Social Security Works, an advocacy group for the benefits program. She added, “It particularly hurts those in low-income, physically demanding jobs” who are more likely to stop working earlier due to health issues.
Work Longer to Keep Insurance
Increasing the age would also mean that Americans between the ages of 65 and 70 would have to work longer in order to keep their health insurance coverage, or purchase their own private health insurance, which can be very expensive.
Postponing eligibility for Medicare “would leave most older Americans age 65 -70 significantly underinsured and threatens their finances and their health,” said Mary Johnson, Social Security, and Medicare policy analyst at The Senior Citizens League, an advocacy group for older Americans.
Increasing the age that older Americans can receive Social Security and Medicare might seem like a good idea to save some money for the programs. But it could mean putting millions of seniors at risk of not having insurance, or falling into poverty. As of now, Republicans are putting the idea out there. But since Democrats have won the majority in the Senate, it seems that older Americans are safe from a rise in the age of benefits eligibility. At least for the time being.