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Expand chart
Reproduced from KFF; Chart: Axios Visuals

Employer plans spend more money each month, on average, on enrollees ages 60-64 than Medicare spends on people between 65 and 74, a new KFF analysis found.

Why it matters: Shifting these high-cost enrollees to Medicare would likely save employers a lot of money. But it would also mean payment cuts for hospitals and doctors.

The big picture: Private insurance often pays several times more than Medicare for the same services. The gap in rates is growing.

  • That means employer coverage keeps getting more expensive — and that money ultimately comes out of the pocket of employers, employees and taxpayers.
  • People generally use more health care services as they age, making the oldest employees the most expensive for employers to cover — and among the most lucrative patients for doctors and hospitals.

Driving the news: Some Democrats, including Sen. Bernie Sanders, are pushing to lower the eligibility age for Medicare from 65 to 60, or even lower.

  • Providers strongly oppose the measure, partially because they say Medicare rates are too low.

By the numbers: Employer health plan spending would plummet if it no longer included older enrollees, a second KFF analysis found.

  • If everyone 60-64 who is enrolled in large employer plans switched to Medicare, employer plan costs would drop by 15%.
  • If everyone 55-64 left their employer plans, the costs would decrease by 30%. And if all adults 50-64 left, costs would decrease by 43%.

Yes, but: Not every newly eligible person would decide to ditch their employer plan, even if they had the choice.

The bottom line: "These two findings suggest that lowering the eligibility age of Medicare could have a downward effect on total national health spending," the KFF researchers conclude.

Go deeper

Caitlin Owens, author of Vitals
Apr 27, 2021 - Health

Drug pricing legislation hits a wall amid Democratic disagreements

Photo: Bill Clark/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images

The White House is unlikely to include a major effort to lower prescription drug prices in its upcoming legislative package, the Washington Post and the Wall Street Journal reported yesterday.

Why it matters: Such a measure would allow Medicare to negotiate the price of drugs and is expected to lower U.S. drug spending by billions of dollars — which has been a top Democratic priority for years.

Miriam Kramer, author of Space
2 hours ago - Science

China makes history with successful Mars landing

A model of the Tianwen-1 Mars rover is displayed during an exhibition at the National Museum of China in Beijing. Photo: Wang Zhao/AFP via Getty Images

A Chinese lander carrying a rover successfully touched down on Mars for the first time, state media reports.

Why it matters: This is the first time China has landed a spacecraft on another planet, and it launches the nation into an elite club of only a few space agencies to successfully make it to the Martian surface.

2 hours ago - World

UN: 10,000 Palestinians displaced in Gaza as Israel-Hamas fighting escalates

A Palestinian woman walks after she collects her belongings inside her damaged house following an Israeli air in the northern Gaza Strip. Photo: Ahmed Zakot/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)

The United Nations warned Friday that ongoing fighting between Israel and Hamas "has the potential to unleash an uncontainable security and humanitarian crisis," in not only the occupied Palestinian territories and Israel, but "the region as a whole."

The big picture: More than 125 Palestinians, including 31 children have been killed in Gaza since fighting began Monday, per the Palestinian Ministry of Health. Eight people, including two children, have been killed in Israel, Reuters reported, citing Israeli authorities.