Chart Of The Day


Raising the Medicare eligibility age is being discussed as part of the fiscal cliff negotiations. Aaron Carroll uses the above chart to argue against the idea:

What you’re seeing is life expectancy at age 65 broken out in to the top half of earners and the bottom half of earners, from 1977 to 2007. I got these data from a study that appeared in Social Security Bulletin in 2007. The paper was entitled, “Trends in Mortality Differentials and Life Expectancy for Male Social Security–Covered Workers, by Socioeconomic Status.” We know that average life expectancy went up less than 5 years overall in this period. But what’s somewhat stunning is how much of a disparity there is in these gains. The top half of earners gained more than 5 years of life at age 65. The bottom half of earners, though, gained less than a year.

If you raise the age of eligibility by two years, then you are taking away more years of Medicare than half the country gained in longer life. Moreover, we’ve already taken away these people’s Social Security. The Greenspan Commission in the early 1980s made it so that the retirement age is already 66. It’s scheduled to rise to 67. So those at the bottom half of the socioeconomic ladder have already lost more years of Social Security than they’ve gained in years of life expectancy at 65.