Raising Medicare Age to 67 Is the Real Death Panel

By Mark Karlin
Truthout, December 11, 2012

Medicare beginning at 67 will result in more senior deaths

Yes, remember when Sarah Palin and the Republican amen choir were claiming that the Affordable Healthcare Act was creating death panels for Americans? It became the meme with Rush Limbaugh, other members of the right wing media echo chamber, and the members of the FOX News political farm team.

So now, as the National Journal points out, John Boehner and his band of Tea Party brigands and his corporate cheerleaders for the plutocracy want — it appears — to raise the Medicare qualifying age to 67.

Now that would be creating a real de facto death panel.

Many seniors find it hard or don’t make it to the finish line of reaching 65 and being on Medicare. The cost of health insurance for those over 50 rises to nearly the cost of a condo in Trump Towers by the age of 64, let alone 66 (the year prior to the GOP House proposed enrollment age of 67 for Medicare).

The National Journal scathingly attacks the Republican move (which unfortunately some Democrats also appear to support, with the final negotiated position of the White House still uncertain on cuts in Medicare for beneficiaries):

Raising taxes on the rich alone won’t close the deficit or erase the national debt, as Republicans superciliously inform us over and over again. But in their negotiations with the White House to avert the so-called fiscal cliff, congressional Republicans seem obsessed with a change in Medicare eligibility whose budgetary impact (when compared with ending the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy) is truly negligible — but whose human toll would be immense….

The impact of raising the Medicare eligibility age by two years will fall most heavily upon older African-American and other minorities, as they are still known. The projected damage is summarized clearly in a chart posted on Monday by Sarah Kliff at The Washington Post’s Wonkblog. The number of uninsured among the elderly will be increased for all groups, but the greatest increase will be among minorities, who will also become more likely to postpone medical care because they lack coverage. The net effect of those changes, to project from what we already know about people who lack of insurance and postpone care, will be earlier deaths and much suffering.

Even more broadly, delaying eligibility is a direct assault on the standard of living of working-class Americans, especially those who have earned their way through physical labor. By age 65, people who have spent decades engaged in hard physical work – such as firefighters, nurses, or other first responders, to consider the most obvious examples – are ready to stop working. Medicare is a critical element of their ability to retire, but Washington elites, especially on the right, are obtusely unsympathetic to their conditions.

Medicare was enacted in 1965 because seniors were literally dying from lack of healthcare or they were going bankrupt paying for insurance or medical care at an age when the highest rate of disease and mortality occurs. Prior to Medicare, elderly Americans were often mired in poverty due to the amount of their money that was spent on healthcare insurance and costs.

And we can presume that a significant number of Americans prematurely died because they could not afford to seek medical attention for serious conditions.

The Republicans want to restore a death panel by legislation by raising the age of eligibility for Medicare.

Sarah Palin: it’s time to denounce the death panel creators in your own party.

There’s a lot of American lives on the line, people who have given their labor and their service to the nation.

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