WASHINGTON -- Raising the eligibility age for enrolling in Medicare won't produce nearly the cost savings that had been assumed previously, said a new report issued Thursday.
The Congressional Budget Office analysis says that phasing in an increase in the eligibility age from 65 to 67 years old would lower the budget deficit by just $19 billion over the coming decade. Savings would rise more in future years, however.
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The CBO report says many people who otherwise would be on Medicare would be eligible for subsidies under the new health care law and that many others would receive primary coverage through their employer or their spouse's employer. And those entering the program at 65 or 66 are, on balance, healthier than other enrollees.
Raising the retirement age is a proposal embraced by budget hawks, particularly Republicans seeking to lower the program's unsustainable growth. But Democrats and advocates for senior citizens like AARP oppose the idea and it's a non-starter in the current round of budget negotiations getting under way in Congress.
A CBO study last year predicted the eligibility age increase would generate $113 billion over a decade.
Raising the eligibility age would produce significantly greater savings after it is fully phased in. CBO's study assumed the phase-in would track the implementation of an increase in the Social Security retirement age to 67.
Looking further ahead, CBO predicts that by 2038 the age hike would cut Medicare costs by about 3 percent compared with current law.