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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

How opioid use across America varies by insurance coverage

Nearly a quarter of U.S. adults with chronic pain had used a prescription opioid in the past three months when surveyed in 2019, according to data published Thursday by the National Center for Health Statistics.

Why it matters: Prescription opioid use for chronic pain management has been associated with an increased risk of misuse, addiction and death — have been the subject of massive class-action lawsuits against opioid manufacturers and distributors.

Updated 2 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Virginia attorney general fires Jan. 6 investigator from university post

McIntire Amphitheater at the University of Virginia, Charlottesville, Virginia. Photo: Robert Knopes/UCG/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

The lead investigator for the Jan. 6 House select committee investigating the Capitol riot has been fired from his position as the University of Virginia's counsel by the state's new Republican attorney general, per the Washington Post.

Why it matters: Democrats say the removal of Tim Heaphy from his post after some three years while he's on leave from the university to investigate the insurrection is likely "retribution" for the House probe — an accusation strongly denied by the office of state Attorney General Jason Miyares (R).

5 hours ago - World

Taiwan's military scrambles jets after detecting 39 Chinese warplanes

J-20 stealth fighter jets in Zhuhai in the Guangdong Province of China last year. Photo: Chen Jimin/China News Service via Getty Images

Taiwan's defense force said 39 Chinese warplanes flew into its Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ) on Sunday.

Why it matters: The largest Chinese air force incursion into the zone since October came a day after the U.S. and Japanese navies conducted a joint exercise in the Philippine Sea.