Bill would start Medicare at age 50

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Supporters of the Medicare at 50 Act say the partial expansion represents a more politically palatable, less disruptive way to reach the eventual goal of universal coverage. – Jim Watson/AFP/Getty Images

By CARL GREEN
Illinois Correspondent

Washington – Illinois’ U.S. Senators have introduced legislation to allow workers to obtain health care through Medicare beginning at age 50.

Senators Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) joined with Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) to introduce the Medicare at 50 Act to give people between the ages of 50 and 64 years old the option of buying into Medicare.

Durbin said the bill would help more Americans have the option of participating in Medicare while also protecting the program for today’s seniors. The legislation would establish a new insurance pool for ages 50-64 while keeping Medicare funding for current seniors separate.

“This boils down to whether you believe health care is a privilege for the wealthy and healthy few, or a right for everyone,” Durbin said. “I believe it’s a right for all Americans. By giving more Americans the choice to participate in Medicare, while simultaneously safeguarding the program for today’s seniors, this bill represents an important next step toward our shared goal of health care for all.”

The plan would be expected to help lower costs, expand access and increase competition.

PUBLIC SUPPORTS IT

Polling from the Kaiser Family Foundation indicates 77 percent of the public supports giving people between the ages of 50 and 64 the option to buy into Medicare.

The polling also shows that 27 percent of adults approaching retirement are not confident that they can afford health insurance over the next year, and more than a quarter have issues navigating health insurance options, coverage decisions, and out-of-pocket costs. Many have not had the care they needed because of how much it would cost, or they kept a job or delayed retirement to keep their employer-sponsored health insurance.

PARTISAN POLITICS?

The bill is likely to face partisan opposition. It now has 18 co-sponsors, and every one is a Democrat. At least five are potential Democratic presidential nominees – Sherrod Brown of Ohio, Cory Booker of New Jersey, Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, Kirsten Gillibrand of New York and Kamala Harris of California.

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