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Friday, November 16, 2012

Paul Krugman: Life, Death and Deficits

 Raising the eligibility age for Social Security and Medicare is *not* the answer:

Life, Death and Deficits, by Paul Krugman, Commentary, NY Times: America’s political landscape is infested with many zombie ideas... And right now the most dangerous zombie is probably the claim that rising life expectancy justifies a rise in both the Social Security retirement age and the age of eligibility for Medicare... — and we shouldn’t let it eat our brains. ...
Now, life expectancy at age 65 has risen... But the rise has been very uneven..., any further rise in the retirement age would be a harsh blow to Americans in the bottom half of the income distribution, who aren’t living much longer, and who, in many cases, have jobs requiring physical effort that’s difficult even for healthy seniors. And these are precisely the people who depend most on Social Security. ...
While the United States does have a long-run budget problem, Social Security is not a major factor... Medicare, on the other hand, is a big budget problem. But raising the eligibility age, which means forcing seniors to seek private insurance, is no way to deal with that problem. ...
What would happen if we raised the Medicare eligibility age? The federal government would save only a small amount of money, because younger seniors are relatively healthy... Meanwhile, however, those seniors would face sharply higher out-of-pocket costs. How could this trade-off be considered good policy?
The bottom line is that raising the age of eligibility for either Social Security benefits or Medicare would be destructive, making Americans’ lives worse without contributing in any significant way to deficit reduction. Democrats ... who even consider either alternative need to ask themselves what on earth they think they’re doing.
But what, ask the deficit scolds, do people like me propose doing about rising spending? The answer is to do what every other advanced country does, and make a serious effort to rein in health care costs. Give Medicare the ability to bargain over drug prices. Let the Independent Payment Advisory Board, created as part of Obamacare to help Medicare control costs, do its job instead of crying “death panels.” (And isn’t it odd that the same people who demagogue attempts to help Medicare save money are eager to throw millions of people out of the program altogether?) ...
What we know for sure is that there is no good case for denying older Americans access to the programs they count on. This should be a red line in any budget negotiations, and we can only hope that Mr. Obama doesn’t betray his supporters by crossing it.

    Posted by on Friday, November 16, 2012 at 12:33 AM in Budget Deficit, Economics, Health Care, Social Insurance, Social Security | Permalink  Comments (69)


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