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When Should Medicare Coverage Begin?

By: Richard W. Johnson
Published: January 2004
Health and Income Security for an Aging Workforce
Brief No. 6 ~ December 2003

Summary: Lowering the Medicare eligibility age to 62 would result in near universal health care coverage among 62 to 64 year olds. People who purchase individual insurance in the market as well as the uninsured could benefit from Medicare coverage. The change would reduce employer costs for retiree health benefits and lower both retiree and employer costs for COBRA continuation coverage. Lowering the automatic eligibility age to 62 would increase Medicare spending by about $5.4 billion a year (in 2000 dollars). Net federal spending would be about $5.0 billion higher, because Medicare would pick up some costs currently paid by Medicaid. State Medicaid outlays would fall by about $0.3 billion.