(Feb. 28) The good news is that a bipartisan group of senators is considering tough but wise choices to extend the life of the Social Security system. The bad news is there’s no mention yet of applying their top idea to Medicare as well.

Angus King of Maine, who caucuses with Senate Democrats, and Bill Cassidy (R-LA) are heading a group that, among other proposals, may be willing gradually to raise the main Social Security eligibility age from 67 to 70. It would be part of an effort to keep the Social Security Trust Fund from being depleted by 2033, which is its current financial course.

This would not be the first time the “retirement age” was slowly raised. The original retirement age was 65, but Congress agreed to bump it up to 67 by small increments in order to keep the program solvent. With most people staying relatively healthy far longer than in decades past (aside from the recent anomaly caused by the worldwide pandemic), it is not unreasonable to ask them to wait a little longer for government retirement checks, especially if the alternative is for the retirement fund to go bankrupt.

The Senate group also is considering other changes to extend Social Security’s solvency, some of which are smarter than others. It is encouraging to see them taking the problem seriously, despite how risky it may be politically to be accused, demagogically, of “cutting” the immensely popular program.

Kudos to them for courage. Yet if they are willing to take political risks on Social Security, they should be willing to do even more on Medicare. The senior health insurance program is expected to be “depleted” in 2028, five years sooner than Social Security. Yet the standard age of Medicare eligibility remains 65, two years before Social Security. The age stayed the same even though access to regular health insurance is far easier than it was decades ago.

The two programs should work in tandem…. [The full column is here.]


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