MILLENNIALS & MEDICAREWhy should Millennials care about Medicare? After all, for this generation, retirement is a long way off. However, it’s never too early to consider how today’s political climate might impact your access to programs like Medicare in the far future. Here’s why.
If you were born between 1981 and 1996, you’re a Millennial. You represent one-fourth of the American population. But if you’re, at most, 37 years old, why should you care about Medicare, Medigap plans, or anything related to retirement?
You might not even know what Medigap plans are — never mind what type you might want when you reach retirement age. However, Millennials need to consider their futures as well as their current situations if they want to make sure they have access to adequate healthcare plans as they get older.
Medicare Supplement plans exist today, but what if they don’t when you turn 65? Or, in a far more likely scenario, what if you don’t have access to as many benefits through Medicare and Medigap plans when you’re ready to retire?
Let’s look at the reasons Millennials should think about Medicare now to preserve their future healthcare benefits.
OLDER PEOPLE HAVE MORE VOTES
It’s true that Millennials have been voting in increasing numbers. The last election cycle saw growth in this area, but older voters still turn out in far greater numbers. Millennials’ voices aren’t being heard as much as they should.
What this means for you is that people who won’t face your precise circumstances when you retire are making decisions about Medicare, Medigap plans, and similar programs now. Without your input and awareness, you have no control over what happens to your healthcare benefits.
In 2016, more than 70 percent of Americans over age 65 voted. That’s compared to less than 50 percent of Millennials. Even though the Millennial generation is huge, it doesn’t matter if they don’t show up to the polls.
MEDICARE ISN’T IN PERFECT SHAPE
Based on a $1.5 trillion tax cut signed in December 2017, according to the New York Times, the Medicare trust fund that covers hospital stays will run out in eight years, and Social Security will be depleted in 16 years. Together, these two programs account for 40 percent of Federal spending.
What does this mean for Millennials? If you want access to benefits like Medigap plans and Medicare Advantage, Original Medicare has to survive. You’ll need it when you no longer have a group healthcare plan and need the money you’ve paid to the federal government to work for you — not against you.
Every day, when you go to work, you’re contributing to Medicare and Social Security. Those contributions come out of your paycheck. That alone should convince you to care about Medicare and Medigap plans.
You might have noticed that costs related to your group medical insurance have risen. Maybe you’re paying a greater copay for general practitioners or specialists, or perhaps your deductible has gone up.
You don’t want those costs to continue to swell until you reach retirement age, then find you don’t have any coverage at all — through Medicare, Medigap plans, or something else entirely.
BUDGET CUTS HAVE TO COME FROM SOMEWHERE: MEDICARE AND MEDIGAP PLANS MIGHT SUFFER
People often rejoice when they hear about tax cuts. Paying less is good, right?
Not when it widens the federal deficit and puts your healthcare at risk.
Think about your own budget or your family’s. When you take a job with a reduced salary, you have to cut spending to avoid running out of money. That might mean canceling cable television, reducing the number of times you eat out every month, or even moving into a less expensive home.
The same happens on a much larger scale with the federal budget. Just as you’ll have to budget for Medigap plans for you and your spouse when you reach retirement, the federal government has to budget for tax cuts.
RETIREES’ HEALTHCARE COSTS CAN TRICKLE DOWN
Today’s retirees’ healthcare costs can trickle down to you, as a Millennial, even though you’re not retired. The money always has to come from somewhere.
Rising healthcare costs across the board come from a need to fund everyone’s healthcare needs. If a hospital begins running a deficit because of inadequate income, the hospital has to increase the cost of its services.
Similarly, insurance companies have to increase premiums or reduce benefits to cover their own costs. If they’re paying out more for Medigap plans now, they have to raise money in other areas, such as by cutting down on your coverage levels through your group insurance.
MILLENNIALS ALREADY HAVE A FEW CARDS STACKED AGAINST THEM
Forget about Medicare and Medicare Supplement plans for a moment. Think about your own situation.
Millennials are struggling to find jobs, facing higher barriers to entry for home ownership, and dealing with less access to loans and lines of credit. In other words, they’re already starting life with the cards stacked against them.
This doesn’t mean that Millennials will fail. It simply means that they must take budgeting and prioritizing more seriously. They’re growing up in a world that’s built around older generations.
Medigap plans are a great way for retirees to reduce their out-of-pocket healthcare costs, but what if such plans aren’t there for Millennials when they retire? That simply adds another layer of struggle.
Millennials should start thinking about Medicare and Medigap plans now, particularly with the current political landscape. Budget cuts and ill-advised tinkering with Medicare could result in fewer benefits for Millennials down the road.
Remember, Millennials make up a larger portion of the current population than any other generation. That gives them more power than they realize. By making yourself aware of the facts and showing up to vote, you make your voice heard.
Maybe you can start by helping your parents prepare for retirement. Ask them about the Medicare Supplement insurance they’re considering and why they’re selecting a particular plan. Working through issues like Medicare and Medigap plans with your folks will help you get more educated on the facts and the decisions they have to face now.