Why Isn’t Birthday Boy Mitt Romney Signing Up for Medicare?

Happy (belated) birthday to presidential candidate Mitt Romney, who turned 65 on Monday, March 12, but will not be enrolling in Medicare, reports the Washington Wire—perhaps because one of his campaign platforms includes raising the program’s eligibility age.

Romney is now the age at which most Americans become eligible to enroll in the Medicare program for its coverage of hospital treatment, doctors visits, and other medical care, including prescription drugs. But despite his eligibility, Romney won’t be signing up, and plans to keep his private health insurance plan, according to an aide, says the Wire. His campaign did not say why Romney decided not to enroll in Medicare (or Social Security, either, for that matter).

It could be because of the current GOP frontrunner’s Medicare plan that he unveiled in late February, which includes increasing the Medicare eligibility age and offering a private option for care, reports the Wall Street Journal.

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Mr. Romney has said he would offer seniors a choice between the traditional fee-for-service government health-care program and a new option to purchase private insurance, with the cost partly supported by the government. On Friday, he said that shift would go into effect in 2022 and added that he planned to increase the Medicare eligibility age by one month each year.

“A few common-sense reforms are going to ensure that we can make good on our promises to our seniors and we can also save Social Security and Medicare for the future generations,” Mr. Romney said in a speech hosted by the Detroit Economic Club at Ford Field.

Those who favor raising Medicare’s eligibility age point out it hasn’t kept pace with increasing life expectancies. When Medicare was passed in 1965, the average life expectancy was about 70 years. Currently, it is around 80 years, and the eligibility age hasn’t changed.

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Fellow presidential candidates Newt Gingrich and Ron Paul have both already passed their sixty-fifth birthdays.

Gingrich has a Medicare Advantage plan administered by Blue Cross Blue Shield, according to his campaign, the Wire reports. Part of his platform includes expanding the proportion of seniors who enroll in the plan, all of which are run by private insurance companies, from its current 25%, says the Wire.

Paul has a Blue Cross Blue Shield employee health insurance plan through the federal government. While the congressman says he wouldn’t change any aspect of Medicare for current beneficiaries, he has stated plans to change the program for upcoming generations. These changes include transitioning out of the current system by allowing people to set up personal medical savings accounts.

Written by Alyssa Gerace