What is the Medicare Buy in Program?

Because of all of the talk surrounding Medicare for All, both Democrats and Republicans hopefuls are having to make it a talking point – or at least their views on the current mandates that surround Medicare and healthcare in America. While Republicans appear to be backing the changes made when Trump took office, Republicans seem to be divided on expanding health insurance coverage via Medicare. To counteract the call for universal coverage, this past month a group of lawmakers reintroduced bills that would allow Americans to buy into the Medicare program at age 50.

Cory Booker of New Jersey, Kamala Harris of California and Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, as well as Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand of New York and Jeff Merkley of Oregon have co-sponsored the bill, all of which are hoping to secure a spot to represent the Democrats in 2020.

These sponsors believe that with this buy-in approach, they’ll be able to overhaul the American health care system quickly, unlike Medicare for all that is being supported by other Democratic candidates.  “It could happen now if it passed, using the current system — a trusted system — with those individuals who are most struggling right now in terms of health care costs,” Sen. Debbie Stabenow said. She alongside Rep. Brian Higgins of New York spearheaded this campaign and believes it’s a more reasonable approach to affordable healthcare.

This bill will allow Americans age 50-64 purchase Medicare through the Affordable Care Act but would be on the hook for premiums so federal government funding would not have to kick in any amount of the cost. It’s important to note that while Medicare has lower deductibles than exchange plans, it doesn’t offer all of the same protections. Those who buy-in would need to buy separate Part D or Medicare Advantage plans. Like current Medicare enrollees, they will also have to purchase Medigap plans.  

While the Congressional Budget Office has not analyzed the bills, Rep. Brian Higgins has said that “premiums would have been around $8,200 in 2017, about 40% lower than a Gold plan for a 60-year-old on the Obamacare exchange.”


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