Medicare at 50 Act Would Provide Medicare Opt-In for People Age 50-64

Today the U.S. GPO posted the text of S. 470, the “Medicare at 50 Act” introduced on February 13, 2019, by Senator Stabenow (D-MI) and cosponsored by 19 other Democrat Senators.  The bill establishes a Medicare “Buy-In“ option for individuals age 50 to 64, and provides for Medigap “guaranteed issue” upon first enrollment and each subsequent enrollment.


While nearly 2/3 of House Democrats sponsored the “Medicare for All” bill introduced last year, polling has shown that such an extreme measure may not have as wide of support from the public. Incrementally expanding Medicare’s eligibility, however, could provide an easier path forward, as lowering Medicare’s age of eligibility has far-reaching bipartisan support. In fact, polls from Kaiser Family Foundation show that 77% of Americans support lowering the minimum age for Medicare, and this includes 69% of Republicans.


What the bill would do:
The Medicare at 50 Act (S. 470) would allow people ages 50 to 64 access to Medicare, down from the current 65 minimum age.


The bill would not require that people ages 50 to 64 enroll, but rather allows people to opt in and sign up. Millions likely would, although the exact number can only be estimated at this point.


Sponsors of S. 470 claim the plan would pay for itself with premiums collected from the new enrollees. As traditional Medicare has less overhead costs than Medicare Advantage, more money would go also to patient care. In addition, supporters say this legislation has the potential to broadly lower health care costs. For example, younger people on the insurance exchanges could see their premiums go down if the 50-to-65-year-olds are removed from the risk pool, and current Medicare enrollees could see the same with the addition of younger people to the program.


Expanding Medicare eligibility by lowering the minimum age makes sense, especially when over 1/4 of adults approaching retirement are not confident that they can afford health insurance over the next year, and have issues navigating health insurance options, coverage decisions, and out-of-pocket costs. In addition, many older adults chose not to receive care they needed because of the cost or kept a job or delayed retirement to keep their employer-sponsored health insurance.


(Image is from Mark Wilson/Getty Images and is of Michigan Democratic Sen. Debbie Stabenow (right) and Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wisc.) when they introduced this legislation on Feb. 13, 2019.)

Karen Joy Fletcher

Our blogger Karen Joy Fletcher is CHA’s Communications Director. With a Masters in Public Health from UC Berkeley, she is the online “public face” of the organization, provides technical expertise, writing and research on Medicare and other health care issues. She is responsible for digital content creation, management of CHA’s editorial calendar, and managing all aspects of CHA’s social media presence. She loves being a “communicator” and enjoys networking and collaborating with the passionate people and agencies in the health advocacy field. See her current articles.