Medicare was implemented in 1965 to cover the medical costs of the oldest members in society. In 1965, the U.S. life expectancy was only 70 years old. Now, however, life expectancy at birth is over 78 years. Medicare is now not just covering the oldest of the old, it also covers the “moderately” old since we are living so much longer.
An NBER working paper by John B. Shoven, Gopi Shah Goda examines what eligibility ages for programs such as Medicare and Social Security would be today and in 2050 if adjustments for mortality improvement were taken into account. The authors conclude the following:
“We find that historical adjustment of eligibility ages for age inflation would have increased ages of eligibility by approximately 0.15 years annually. Failure to adjust for mortality improvement implies the percent of the population eligible to receive full Social Security benefits and Medicare will increase substantially relative to the share eligible under a policy of age adjustment.”
- John B. Shoven, Gopi Shah Goda (2008) “Adjusting Government Policies for Age Inflation” NBER WP #14231.