39 million Americans could be affected by Hillary Clinton's Medicare plan -- Will you be one of them?

Before you go, we thought you'd like these...
Before you go close icon

Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton promises to change Medicare in perhaps the most drastic way since the program was created in 1965. At least 39 million Americans could be affected by this Medicare change right out of the gate if it's implemented. Maybe even you.

Medicare Middle Aged Couple

Image source: Getty Images.

Lowering the bar

Currently, Medicare eligibility is limited to Americans age 65 or older except for individuals with disabilities or end stage renal disease. Clinton wants to expand the number of people enrolled in the federal healthcare program by lowering the age requirement to 55.

Details of Clinton's plan haven't been announced yet. Her written public position only says that she will "expand Medicare by allowing people 55 years or older to opt in while protecting the traditional Medicare program." While this statement doesn't shed much light on how the proposed approach will work, two things are clear. First, the key components of Medicare as it stands now won't change. Second, the expansion would be optional for Americans who want to participate in Medicare.

Clinton initially flirted with the idea of setting the Medicare age threshold at 50. Had she gone with this lower age limit, around 63 million Americans could have been impacted. The proposal to set the threshold at 55 would potentially allow one out of every eight people in the country who aren't already enrolled in Medicare to sign up.

42 PHOTOS
41 powerful photos of Hillary Clinton's storied career
See Gallery
41 powerful photos of Hillary Clinton's storied career

Hillary Clinton, First Lady of the United States, throws a thumbs-up during a presidential election victory celebration in 1992. Her husband might be doing the same for her, 24 years later.

(Photo by Win McNamee / Reuters)

Here she is talking to kids at the Children's Memorial Hospital in Chicago, October 21, 1993.

(Photo by Sue Ogrocki / Reuters)

As First Lady, she did a lot of traveling, like to Bosnia in 1996 to meet US soldiers.

(Photo by Win McNamee / Reuters)

In 1997 she visited Goree Island, Senegal, with her daughter Chelsea. Here they are peering out from the Door of No Return, a former slave trading center, as a soldier stands guard.

(Photo by Win McNamee / Reuters)

Nelson Mandela showed Clinton and Chelsea the cell in which he was held for 27 years at the Robben's Island prison off the coast of Cape Town, March 20, 1997.

(Photo by Win McNamee / Reuters)

Here she is with Bill in the Oval Office, chatting with a bunch of kids awaiting adoption.

(Photo via Reuters)

Sporting similar power suits and haircuts, Hillary met with Diana, Princess of Wales, at the White House in 1997.

(Photo via Reuters)

No one can claim that she doesn't get her hands dirty. Here's Clinton building a home as a volunteer for Habitat for Humanity in Pikeville, Kentucky, in 1997.

(Photo via Reuters)

She's always been an advocate for affordable health care as well as women's rights. In 1998, Clinton gave a speech at Beijing Medical University about improving health care in China, particularly folic acid deficiencies in pregnant mothers.

(Photo by Natalie Behring / Reuters)

Like any presidential nominee, she's good with babies. She found this one during a visit to a children's home in the Dominican Republic in 1998.

(Photo via Reuters)

Hillary kneels before the grave of US Private Celia Goldberg, who was killed in Tunisia during World War II, at the North Africa American Cemetery, outside Tunis, in 1999.

(Photo via Reuters)

In 2000, she announced her candidacy for New York's Senate seat.

(Photo via Reuters)

Later that year, Clinton held an event at the White House on preventing potential harm to children from defective products.

(Photo via Reuters)

She won that New York Senate seat on November 7, 2000. Definitely not a "low energy" candidate, based on this picture.

(Photo via Reuters)

Days after 9/11, she took a tour of the World Trade Center disaster site.

(Photo via Reuters)

Here Clinton is giving kids from Manhattan's Colombia Grammar and Prep school a tour of her office on Capitol Hill in 2003.

(Photo by Reuters)

She wrote a book titled "Living History."

(Photo by Chip East / Reuters)

In 2003, all Clinton could do was smirk on "The Tonight Show with Jay Leno" as Leno shows her a tabloid newspaper article about her hooking up with an alien.

(Photo via Reuters)

A power woman power lunches with US troops in Bagram Airbase, north of Kabul, in 2003.

(Photo via Reuters)

Here she's listening to Defense Secretary nominee Robert Gates testify before the US Senate Armed Services Committee during his confirmation hearing on Capitol Hill in 2006.

(Photo by Jim Young / Reuters)

Hillary and Bill pay their respects to the late former President Gerald Ford in 2007.

(Photo by Jim Young / Reuters)

This is her first presidential campaign's website in 2007. It's pretty low-tech.

(Image via Reuters)

Back in 2007, she was running against Obama for the Democratic Presidential nomination.

(Photo by Lisa Hornak / Reuters)

Their body language says more than a thousand words.

(Photo by Steve Marcus / Reuters)

She spent most of 2008 on the campaign trail.

(Photo by Chris Keane / Reuters)

She's nothing if not ecstatic.

(Photo by Bradley Bower / Reuters)

It was a close race, but she had to endorse presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama at the National Building Museum in Washington, June 7, 2008.

(Photo by Jason Reed / Reuters)

A gracious loser, she waved to delegates at the 2008 Democratic National Convention in Denver, August 26, 2008.

(Photo by Eric Thayer / Reuters)

Despite losing the nomination, her and Obama found that they had a lot in common. He later made her Secretary of State.

(Photo by Jim Young / Reuters)

Secretary of State Clinton and President Obama tour the Sultan Hassan Mosque in Cairo in 2009.

(Photo by Larry Downing / Reuters)

A North Korean soldier looks in through the window as Hillary tours the Demilitarized Zone in Panmunjom, South Korea, in 2010.

(Photo by Cherie Cullen/Defense Department photo via Reuters)

This is the badass pic that launched a thousand memes. Hillary looks cool as a cucumber checking her phone on a military C-17 plane to Libya in 2011.

(Photo by Kevin Lamarque / Reuters)

Here she is in the Situation Room with Obama and Vice President Joe Biden, along with members of the national security team, in 2011. They just received news on the mission against Osama bin Laden.

(Photo by White House/Pete Souza via Reuters)

They say the second time's a charm: here is Clinton delivering her "official launch speech" at a campaign kick off rally on Roosevelt Island in New York City, June 13, 2015.

(Photo by Lucas Jackson / Reuters)

Peek-a-boo: Hillary sizes up her audience at a campaign launch party at Carter Hill Orchard in Concord, New Hampshire, on June 15, 2015.

(Photo by Brian Snyder / Reuters)

Hillary takes the stage to speak during the Scott County Democratic Party's Red, White and Blue Dinner at the Mississippi Valley Fairgrounds in Davenport, Iowa, January 23, 2016.

(Photo by Scott Morgan / Reuters)

Bill is thrilled as his wife speaks at a campaign stop in Davenport, Iowa, in January 2016.

(Photo by Brian Snyder / Reuters)

A woman of the people, she hugged Brana Marancic, an employee of Caesar's Palace in Las Vegas, Nevada, in February 2016. They appear to be in a storage closet.

(Photo by Jim Young / Reuters)

It was a fierce race between Clinton and Bernie Sanders

(Photo by Mike Segar / Reuters)

Here she is speaking to supporters at her New York presidential primary night rally in Manhattan, April 19, 2016.

(Photo by Mike Segar / Reuters)

She did it! Hillary is officially the Democratic presidential nominee, and the first woman in the 240-year history of the US to lead a major party's presidential ticket.

(Photo by Carlos Barria / Reuters)

of
SEE ALL
BACK TO SLIDE
SHOW CAPTION +
HIDE CAPTION

Weighing the opt-in options

Not all of the more than 39 million Americans between the ages of 55 and 64 would want to participate in Medicare. There are several reasons why many people would choose to hold off.

Out-of-pocket spending stands out as perhaps the biggest barrier. Medicare doesn't have an out-of-pocket maximum like private health insurance plans include. People who have high yearly healthcare costs would be worse off on the federal healthcare program than they would on an employer-sponsored insurance plan or on individual coverage that meets Obamacare-mandated requirements.

Provider selection could be another issue. A Kaiser Family Foundation survey conducted in 2015 found that 28% of physicians responding said they wouldn't accept new Medicare patients. Unlike the initial promise with Obamacare, there's definitely no guarantee with Clinton's "Medicare for more" proposal that if you like your doctor you can keep your doctor.

Benefits, especially for drugs, is another challenge. Medicare Part D prescription drug plans tend to have more limited drug formularies than other insurance coverage. For example, healthcare consulting firm Avalere examined 22 classes of commonly used drugs. Medicare Part D plans covered 70% of the drugs, while Obamacare exchange plans covered 85%.

Cost could be another problem. We don't know what the price tag to buy into Medicare will be for the expanded age group. If it's too high, more people will opt out than opt in. Still, many Americans who aren't eligible for Medicare now could find that it's a good alternative, especially if they're relatively healthy and spend less on healthcare.

10 PHOTOS
Business leaders who endorse Donald Trump
See Gallery
Business leaders who endorse Donald Trump

Steve Forbes, Chairman and Editor-in-Chief of Forbes 

Photo: Reuters

Peter Thiel, Venture Capitalist, co-founder of PayPal

Photo: Reuters

Kenneth Langone, co-founder of The Home Depot

Photo: Getty

Bernard 'Bernie' Marcus, co-founder and former chairman of Home Depot 

Photo: Getty

Pete Coors, Chairman of MillerCoors

Photo: Getty

Linda McMahon, formerly CEO of World Wrestling Entertainment

Photo: Getty

Brian France, Chairman and CEO of NASCAR

Photo: Reuters

Herman Cain, American author and business executive

Photo: Reuters

Carly Fiorina, former CEO of Hewlett-Packard
of
SEE ALL
BACK TO SLIDE
SHOW CAPTION +
HIDE CAPTION

Good idea?

Is adding more people to a program that won't have enough money to fund 100% of its current obligations 12 years from now a good idea? It depends.

If the plan doesn't bring in enough premiums to cover the additional costs, Medicare could be put in worse shape than it is now. If rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic wasn't a good idea, pouring water into the ship definitely wouldn't be smart.

On the other hand, people between the ages of 55 and 64 tend to be healthier on average than older Americans. The addition of healthier members to Medicare could lower the per-person costs. If the premiums for these relatively younger individuals buying in are set just right, the "Medicare for more" idea could work.

The most recent major change to Medicare, former President George W. Bush's introduction of Medicare Part D, has been widely hailed as a success. It's possible that Clinton's proposed expansion to the program could also prove to be a winner. Two major hurdles remain for Clinton: getting elected and then getting her proposal through Congress. The latter will probably be much more difficult than the former.

The $15,834 Social Security bonus most retirees completely overlook
If you're like most Americans, you're a few years (or more) behind on your retirement savings. But a handful of little-known "Social Security secrets" could help ensure a boost in your retirement income. For example: one easy trick could pay you as much as $15,834 more... each year! Once you learn how to maximize your Social Security benefits, we think you could retire confidently with the peace of mind we're all after. Simply click here to discover how to learn more about these strategies.

Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

Read Full Story

Want more news like this?

Sign up for Finance Report by AOL and get everything from business news to personal finance tips delivered directly to your inbox daily!

Subscribe to our other newsletters

Emails may offer personalized content or ads. Learn more. You may unsubscribe any time.

From Our Partners