How Much Would a Medicare Buy-In Cost?

A 2008 study estimates $7,600 annually

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Most Americans like the idea of allowing Americans under age 65 to buy in to Medicare. Some 74 percent of adults support expanding Medicare to cover those age 55 to 64 without insurance, according to a September Kaiser Family Foundation poll. Majorities of Republicans, Democrats, independents, and all age groups back the plan. Support has remained consistent in Kaiser surveys since 2000.

[See The Best Medicare Advantage Plans.]

Uninsured adults between ages 55 and 64 face higher premiums and are more likely to be denied coverage than younger Americans. So, many older Americans relish the idea of purchasing a government insurance plan that cannot refuse or deny them. But the cost of buying in to Medicare could be prohibitively expensive. A December 2008 Congressional Budget Office study found that the annual premium would be about $7,600 annually, or $634 a month, for a single adult age 62 to 64 in 2011 including Part D coverage.

[See How to Pick the Best Medicare Part D Prescription Drug Plan.]

The premium for a buy-in program would be higher than if the entire eligible population was enrolled because the sickest and heaviest users of healthcare services would be the most likely to sign up, CBO found. Healthier seniors may be deterred by the high premiums and buy less comprehensive private coverage or go without health insurance. A subsidized Medicare buy-in premium could encourage more healthy people to enroll, but would also increase federal spending.

[See Three Groups that Will Soon Face Higher Medicare Premiums.]

The premiums to buy into Medicare, if there is no subsidy, could be higher than average premiums for private insurance for 50- and 60-somethings. Premiums for non-group insurance for adults between the ages of 55 and 64 averaged $5,349 for individuals and $9,002 for families in 2009, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation. However, 10 percent of these policies included a rider that excluded treatment for a pre-existing condition. Adults with such a rider must pay for all costs related to the pre-existing condition out-of-pocket. Additionally, 29 percent of those age 60 to 64 and 24 percent of 50 to 59-year-olds were denied private health insurance coverage altogether.

Tell us, do you support allowing Americans under age 65 to buy into Medicare?