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Medicare Reform Debate: Why it Matters to Young Voters

by Brenda Evans, published
Credit: Phelan M. Ebenhack / AP

2012 Medicare Reform Debate

Despite lack of engagement with the issue, young voters need to be at the center of the Medicare reform debate. Seniors are not the only group who need to think about their generation’s health and financial well-being. With campaign focus on the future of Medicare, results in November are essential to young voters.

Medicare trustee Robert Reischauer said that the program will run out of the money needed to fulfill its obligations by 2024 if not addressed.

The current Medicare program aids family members of Millennials and is promised to do the same for them when they become eligible.

David Lipschutz, policy attorney at Center for Medicare Advocacy, believes that young voters need to engage themselves in the Medicare reform debate.

“Young voters have the right to expect that a strong Medicare program will be there for them, in part, since they are already paying into Medicare,” Lipschutz said.

As 24% of the voting population, Millennials can greatly affect the outcome of an election.

Polls show young voters are primarily concerned with the economy. A Harvard University Institute of Politics survey discovered that the 58% of voters between the ages of 18-29, cited “jobs and the economy” as the most important issue facing the nation.

But health care is cited as the second greatest concern, despite the national discussion on Medicare largely not appealing to them.

It is not a glamorous issue, but one that is important to the future of healthcare.

“Many if not most young voters have family members who currently rely on the access to health care and financial protections provided by the Medicare program,” Lipschutz stated. “Without this help, many family members would be unable to afford seeing the doctor or getting prescription drugs.”

It’s not just about compassion and concern for the continued care for loved ones that should urge their involvement. The looming financial responsibility for the younger generation could be a heavy burden.

According to Lipschutz, turning Medicare over to private insurance companies would increase out-of-pocket costs, and restrict certain benefits.

“Younger people would shoulder further responsibility for their parents/grandparents at a time when they are also starting their careers and dealing with student loan costs,” he said.

On the positive side, Lipschutz points out that money not spent on healthcare can benefit younger generations of a family through excess funds being passed down for things such as education.

It is the future generations that need to closely examine the Romney/Ryan stance, as it won’t touch Medicare plans of current recipients.

Campaigning in Florida, Rep. Paul Ryan, whose vice presidential nomination sparked the Medicare debate, assured retirees last week that his proposed plan would not affect their benefits.

The plan would instead affect people currently under 55 who would receive a lump sum to purchase private health insurance when they become eligible.

According to the CBO and other independent analysts, that allotted sum would not cover full care. Healthcare costs are expected to rise faster than the voucher amount and recipients will be left to pay the difference.

No matter where the youth vote falls on the Medicare reform debate, it is important that they become engaged in the conversation, as it will immediately affect them. The security of their future and the care of their families depends on their vote.

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