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Bringing Veterans Into Medicare Just Might Save Its Solvency Issues

A lot of our societal norms were at one time quite controversial. Changes, if adopted, were thought to bring about the downfall of western civilization.

Desegregation, women in the military, gay marriage, legal marijuana. No one, really, cares that much about these issues now. But at one point, they were incredibly divisive in the US. (Though marijuana isn’t legal nationally, it’s only a matter of time before it is.)

Single payer healthcare or “Medicare-For-All” is probably in the same boat as the above issues. If you were to bet between what is most likely to happen: 1) abolishing Medicare or 2) Medicare for all, the safer bet would be that open access to Medicare would happen. It could be 10 years before it becomes the norm, or it could be 50. But it’s likely to happen.

Right now, though, Medicare has a solvency issue. More money is going out to pay for medical care than is coming in, but ironically, this is happening for good reasons: people are living longer. That also means that medical care, and costs, will happen for a longer period of time. Unfortunately, raising rates on the retired isn’t the best way to cover those costs. Retirees simply cannot afford it. Raise taxes to pay for it? In today’s climate, you’d have an easier time approving a presidential cabinet position.

None the less, money has to get into Medicare.

One of the easiest options would be to bring veterans into Medicare.

With the exception of babies, the average amount of health care spent on a person between the ages of 5-44, is $2500 per year. That’s not how much you spend personally. That’s how much insurance agencies pay out for doctor and hospital care. From the ages of 45-64, it jumps to $6400. It doubles after 65.

Young people simply don’t need a lot of medical care. If you’re in your 20’s, it’s likely you went a few years straight without having to visit a doctor. Yet you also paid into medical insurance.

So why veterans as an option for Medicare solvency issues? Vets are young. Really young.

If you joined the military at 22 years of age and stayed in for a full 20 years to receive retirement, you’d still separate from active duty at 42. This is at the end of the $2500 per year window, but still fairly young.

Additional, only 20% of people who join the military stay in until retirement eligibility. The vast majority get out after their first enlistment. On average, these are people who enlist and exit before the age of 27. Enlisted personnel makes up the majority of the Armed Forces. 72% of them are under the age of 30. Roughly 530,000 of them are under 25, and half of that won’t reenlist. Every year, we add 200,000 veterans back into civilian life, who still have 40 more years to go before health issues become a concern.

The numbers of people entering Medicare per year don’t match with that of veterans exiting the military. Nearly 18 times as many elderly join Medicare annually, versus transitioning away from the military. But the military numbers are huge, and can pay into a service they won’t use very much, if at all, for decades.

This is an easy enough fix. Most of the programs that could make it viable are already in existence. A full-time W2 employee pays into FICA (Federal Insurance Contributions Act). The veteran employee would simply pay a higher amount monthly.

Unless veterans were being gouged by costs, there’s not much reason why they wouldn’t opt for it to be their primary insurance. It has a high approval rating, among those who use it, while the monthly costs for it are between half and a third of what non-subsidized health insurance costs.

This doesn’t even address the issue of alleviating some problems facing the Veterans Affairs administration, which has had decades of difficulties.

Give vets Medicare. They deserve it.

Kurt Shrout is a former military police officer in the United States Marine Corps. He holds a BA in History and has traveled to over 70 countries, living in 3 of them. Follow him on Twitter.

This is an opinion piece. The views expressed in this article are those of just the author.

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