Older Americans are caught in a bind. They can start collecting social security at age 62, but many still feel they are unable to quit working until much later in life.
Fewer than one in five seniors actually retires at age 62. Fifteen percent of seniors wait until they are 66 to retire — and that number is increasing. According to a poll from Gallup, the average person is expected to work until age 66. In 2002, that age was 63. In fact, workers over the age of 65 were the fastest growing age group of workers in the United States in 2017.
While a few seniors simply love their jobs and want to keep working, that certainly is not the case for everyone. Many use their retirement savings to help out members of their family and, in turn, postpone their own retirement. Some need to help their own parents with end of life expenses, while others have opted to help their grandchildren pay for college.
Additionally, many workers don’t have reliable retirement savings to supplement their Social Security payments. Nearly half of private sector employers do not offer a retirement plan, such as a 401(k). Regardless of the cause, a great many of seniors simply don’t think they can afford to leave the workforce.
When it comes to affording retired life, one huge concern is access to health insurance. While America’s seniors can receive healthcare coverage under Medicare, the enrollment age is 65. That leaves a three-year gap between when an individual can start collecting Social Security and when they are eligible for Medicare.
Health insurance for an older individual can also cost hundreds of dollars per month, if not thousands. The cost is high, but not a complete surprise as people over the age of 55 are responsible for half of all health care expenses in the United States. Instead of retiring at 62, many seniors are opting to keep working until at least age 65 so they can stay on their employer’s insurance plan.
But the system does not need to stay this way. We can start by ensuring seniors have access to health insurance the moment they are eligible for retirement. By lowering the eligibility age for Medicare down from 65 to 62, we can realign the system so that it actually works for seniors when they are ready to start collecting Social Security.
In fact, many advocates believe 60 is the best age for Medicare eligibility to begin. President Joe Biden proposed lowering the Medicare age to 60 as part of this American Families Plan.
According to a survey from healthInsurance.com, 75 percent of Americans support lowering the Medicare age to 60. The policy even has bipartisan appeal. Three-quarters of Republicans and 85 percent of Democrats support lowering the age.
Hard-working Americans shouldn't feel trapped into putting off retirement, especially due to concerns over health care costs. Lowering the Medicare eligibility age to 60 is just one way we can eliminate retirement confusion and offer coverage to millions of additional seniors.
Jan Dubauskas is a health care expert, enthusiastic insurance pro, attorney and mom serving as Vice President of healthinsurance.com.
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