Senators talk about lowering Medicare age

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Lowering the age requirement for Medicare was a topic of discussion at a Senate hearing late last week to help "near-elderly" people receive and keep healthcare coverage.

The hearing, conducted by the Senate Special Committee on Aging, addressed the issue of a growing number of people aged 55 to 64 who do not have or cannot afford health insurance. People in this age bracket are at a significantly higher risk for chronic disease than younger groups and are finding it more difficult to find insurance as a result. Also, only one-third of large employers were offering health benefits in 2007, compared with two-thirds in 1988.

Panelists also floated ideas such as extending employer based insurance through the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1986, creating health insurance pools and deregulating the insurance market, opening it up to stronger competition.

Allowing those aged 55-64 to buy into Medicare would be the most viable option, since individuals would pay for their own healthcare, instead of requiring a group effort to pay for individual care, according to Jeanne M. Lambrew, associate professor at the University of Texas at Austin.

For more information and to read testimony from the hearing, visit http://www.aging.senate.gov.