Not just any middle-class people, though. It’s middle-class retirees between the ages of 62 and 65, who are eligible for Social Security but not yet eligible for Medicare.
What are the odds that Democrats would have snuck a not-so-little payoff for voters over the age of 60 into a bill whose passage badly hurt them among the highly coveted senior demographic?
President Barack Obama’s health care law would let several million middle-class people get nearly free insurance meant for the poor, a twist government number crunchers say they discovered only after the complex bill was signed…
Up to 3 million more people could qualify for Medicaid in 2014 as a result of the anomaly. That’s because, in a major change from today, most of their Social Security benefits would no longer be counted as income for determining eligibility. It might be compared to allowing middle-class people to qualify for food stamps.
Medicare chief actuary Richard Foster says the situation keeps him up at night.
“I don’t generally comment on the pros or cons of policy, but that just doesn’t make sense,” Foster said during a question-and-answer session at a recent professional society meeting.
“This is a situation that got no attention at all,” added Foster. “And even now, as I raise the issue with various policymakers, people are not rushing to say … we need to do something about this.”
Really? No one in the federal government’s rushing to undo a handout to near-seniors right before a major election, with elderly voters already on edge over Paul Ryan’s Medicare reform plan? Go figure. Foster must be thinking that, because Medicaid is straining state budgets like never before — to the point where governors like Chris Christie and Jan Brewer are requesting permission to tighten Medicaid eligibility rules — the feds would act quickly to relieve the added burden of having to cover three million middle-class people too. Why toss a few more shovelfuls of dirt, the logic goes, onto treasuries that are already buried? And yet, that logic’s never stopped them from passing “doctor fix” every time Medicare’s costs rise beyond projections. When it comes to health-care entitlements for seniors, there’s always enough money somehow.
Administration officials tell the AP that the Medicaid loophole here wasn’t a loophole at all but in fact a deliberately crafted decision. For once, I believe them.