September 03, 2021

Congressman Joe Neguse Proposes Lowering the Medicare Eligibility Age to 60

The proposal to expand Medicare to at least 23 million people is backed by a broad coalition of House members  

Washington Today, Congressman Joe Neguse helped lead a coalition of more than 125 House progressives, moderates, and frontline lawmakers who represent the most competitive districts across the country in introducing legislation that lowers the Medicare eligibility age to 60. The effort—which was co-led by U.S. Representatives Pramila Jayapal (WA-07), Conor Lamb (PA-17), Susan Wild (PA-07), Haley Stevens (MI-11), and Debbie Dingell (MI-12)—would expand Medicare to at least 23 million people. 

“Lowering the Medicare eligibility age to 60 will provide immediate and substantive relief to millions of Americans who are underinsured or uninsured,” said Congressman Neguse. “Expanding the long-tested and successful Medicare program is a common-sense, historic measure we can take to massively expand high quality-affordable health care and deliver for the American people.”

Earlier this year, Congressman Neguse laid out his vision for expanding Medicare, including expanding benefits to include dental, vision and hearing, lowering the eligibility age and ensuring drug price negotiation to lower costs. He’s since gained the support of over 150 Democrats, 70 percent of the Caucus for his plan. 

Currently, there are over 900,000 people in Colorado enrolled in Medicare. By making this policy change, an estimated 144,000 Coloradans would become eligible, greatly expanding access to quality care for communities in need. 

“Lowering the Medicare eligibility age will not only be life-changing for at least 23 million people, it will also be life-saving for so many across America who will finally be able to get the care they need and deserve,” said Congresswoman Jayapal.“Expanding and improving this wildly popular program is not only the right thing to do from a policy perspective, it is also what the majority of Americans across party lines support. Congress and President Biden should immediately deliver for the people by prioritizing the expansion and improvement of Medicare in the upcoming Build Back Better package.”

“Many working Americans – like firefighters and nurses – can end up out of the workforce before 65 because of the grueling nature of their jobs. Most have paid into Medicare for decades at that point and they should get the benefit when they need it,” said Congressman Lamb. “Lowering the Medicare age to 60 will help millions of Americans.”

“Lowering the age of Medicare eligibility would open the door for more Americans to receive critical health care coverage,” said Congresswoman Wild. “Especially in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, when millions of people have been laid off and families have been faced with unexpected medical expenses without insurance, lowering Medicare eligibility now couldn't be more imperative. I’m proud to support this legislation to strengthen our health care system and ensure that Americans receive the comprehensive care they deserve.”

“By lowering the age of Medicare eligibility to 60, we are able to cover as many as 23 million additional Americans. I am proud to join my colleagues in introducing the Improving Medicare Coverage Act to expand access and lower health care costs,” said Congresswoman Stevens. “This bill reimagines programs that provide financial assistance to cover the costs of Medicare and eliminates barriers that prevent eligible seniors and people with disabilities from accessing much-needed care.”

“We are the only industrialized nation that does not have guaranteed access to health care for all its citizens – this needs to change now,” said Congresswoman Dingell. “We’re working on ensuring universal health care, and this includes lowering the Medicare eligibility age to 60 so that more adults can get the critical access to the quality, affordable health care they need. Proud to introduce this legislation today to advance universal health care for more Americans.”

Today’s legislation is also endorsed by local, state, and national organizations including Public Citizen, Indivisible, the Progressive Democrats of America, Social Security Works, the Center for Popular Democracy, MoveOn, Working Families Party, the Sunrise Movement, and the National Health Care for the Homeless Council.

Up to 25 percent of those ages 60 to 64 experience being uninsured before turning 65. According to a new study led by Dr. Joseph Shrager of Stanford University, 65- to 69 year-olds in the U.S. have a statistically better chance of being diagnosed and surviving our most common cancers than in the five years prior. Overall mortality rates also significantly improve at age 65. Americans aged 60-64 have the highest mortality rates compared to those in the same age range in peer countries — but once they reach 65, mortality rates drastically reduce thanks to Medicare. 

The deadly COVID-19 pandemic only exacerbated the crisis. Many older Americans lost their jobs and their health insurance as the uninsured rate skyrocketed. While the economic recovery has begun for some, older workers are currently being hired at a lower rate than those in younger age groups.

President Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris have repeatedly expressed commitments to expanding Medicare. Support for Medicare expansion is also high within Congress. More than 70 percent of the House Democratic Caucus — from moderates to progressives — signed on in support of lowering the age and expanding benefits. That number includes 15 lawmakers from the most vulnerable swing districts. This is in addition to support from national labor unions, local groups, and national organizations. 

Beyond being supported across the Democratic party, expanding Medicare is popular throughout the country with backing from overwhelming bipartisan majorities. A Gallup poll found that 65 percent of Americans — across party lines — are in favor of lowering the eligibility age. Another survey shows a full 60 percent of likely voters — including a majority of Republicans — in favor of lowering the eligibility age. Even a majority of people who cast their votes for Donald Trump back expanding Medicare.

The text of the legislation is available here