On New Year’s Day, the oldest of the Baby Boomers turned 65 years old, and immediately qualified for Medicare benefits. Millions more Boomers will follow them in the next two decades, putting major strains on the government health program that has benefited the Boomers’ parents and grandparents.
“They took a running dive into adolescence and went on to redefine work and family, but getting old is making them nervous,” according to a news report on an Associated Press/GfK poll released last week.
By a ratio of 2-to-1, baby boomers fear they won’t be able to rely on Medicare throughout their own retirement, the pollsters concluded. Forty-three percent of the Boomers polled said they didn’t expect Medicare to last their lifetimes, while only 20 percent think it will.
Yet the AP/GfK poll found Boomers willing to accept trade-offs if that helps avoid cuts in benefits. In just one example, 63 percent of the Boomers surveyed said the eligibility age for Medicare benefits shouldn’t be raised from 65, despite the fact that the eligibility age for maximum Social Security benefits is gradually being increased to 67. However, when pressed by the pollsters, 59 percent of those surveyed said they would accept an increase in eligibility age to preserve benefits.
No matter what, some changes will be needed to accommodate all the Boomers who will be crossing over into retirement in the next 20 years. “The 800-pound gorilla is eating like mad and growing to 1,200 pounds,” according to an economist quoted in the AP story.
So where’s the line for you?
What tradeoffs would you make?
Please, “Comment” below.
(Dr. Baker is away and has invited writer Terry Gallagher to carry us through the year-end holidays.)