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Medicare at 60? Five Things to Know About Joe Biden’s Health Care Strategy

With the Democratic primary race over and Joe Biden winning out over candidates such as Bernie Sanders and Elisabeth Warren, the debate over Medicare for All has fallen largely silent.

So what are the Biden campaign’s stances on health insurance and Medicare? What might seniors expect out of their coverage if Biden were to take over the presidency?

Here are five of Biden’s key health care policy positions approaching the 2020 presidential election.

Biden does not support Medicare for All

Earlier in his 2020 campaign, Biden said he would veto a Medicare for All proposal, citing the program’s price tag. Even with the unexpected COVID-19 pandemic, Biden has not changed his mind on the issue.

While he does support a federally funded public option for health insurance (more on that below), his proposal stops short of a sweeping Medicare for All program that would eliminate private health insurance.

Biden wants to lower the Medicare eligibility age to 60

Biden has proposed lowering the eligibility age for Medicare to 60 from its current minimum of 65. While some Medicare beneficiaries qualify for coverage before age 65 due to qualifying disability or health condition, most beneficiaries currently become eligible upon turning 65.

Under Biden’s proposal, Americans age 60 to 64 would be given the option to keep any existing employer coverage or make the switch to Medicare. Lowering the age limit to 60 would make around 20 million additional Americans eligible for Medicare in 2021. 

Proponents contend Biden’s proposal would benefit both Medicare and the private insurance market. Adding beneficiaries age 60-64 would make the Medicare risk pool younger and healthier, and removing those beneficiaries from private market would have a similar effect on private risk pools. Theoretically, that could lower costs for both markets. 

Critics of Biden’s proposal contend that introducing a less risky demographic to Medicare would end up lowering reimbursement rates for hospitals and providers. The loss of millions of premium-paying beneficiaries would also strip private insurance providers from a significant revenue stream. 

The Biden health plan includes private and public options

Biden has discussed health insurance reform measures that would include a public coverage option, preserve employer-based coverage and bolster the Affordable Care Act (ACA, also called Obamacare) to expand the safety net for those without coverage.

Under Biden’s proposal, Americans would have the choice to participate in their employer-based coverage or the public option, which would be available to anyone. His proposed public option would include coverage for the 10 essential benefits currently mandated by the ACA.

Unlike various Medicare for All proposals that would eliminate private insurance, Biden’s proposal calls for having the option of both private or public insurance. 

Biden wants to eliminate surprise medical billing

One pillar of Biden’s health care proposal would be to put an end to surprise billing practices, such as out-of-network costs for emergency health care and other situations that may be beyond a beneficiary’s control.

Biden aims to lower prescription drug costs

Candidate Biden has stated he would support legislation allowing Medicare to negotiate drug pricing with manufacturers.

He has also proposed limiting the launch price for drugs that do not have any market competition and capping drug price increases to rates comparable with inflation.

Learn more about the future of Medicare

Learn more about President Donald Trump's plans for Medicare according to his 2020 budget proposal.