In early February, the National Academy of Social Insurance (NASI) hosted their 25th annual policy research conference on “Medicare and Social Security in a Time of Budget Austerity.” It was a two-day event and I gladly participated in one of their several sessions on a Friday afternoon.
The session that I chose to attend was titled “No Benefits If They Won’t Pay for Them: What Young Americans are Willing to Finance.”
The panelists were Hilary Doe from Roosevelt Institute and Brian Collins from Bipartisan Policy Center. The following pressing questions were asked: “Can social insurance address the needs of increasingly diverse generations? If so, what should be done to reach out to younger Americans and engage them in charting the future of Social Security, Medicare, and other social insurance programs?”
Overall, Collins and Doe were both very optimistic about the future of social security and Medicare. They were agreeably confident that the younger generations are ready to engage in their civic duties by participating in important issues of social safety nets.
Doe spoke very positively of the future generation as did as Collins throughout the session. She believes that the majority of young Americans support social insurance programs and says that current young Americans are different from the previous generations. Young Americans are civic minded and think “holistically” about social insurance programs.
Also, there is an “identity politics” among the younger generations. Doe comments that young Americans are more motivated to participate but more difficult to convince. However, they do have the “courage” and the “ambition” to tackle these important issues of Medicare and social security. She advises that the important thing to do is to remind the young generations that they can make a difference and these social safety net programs will be available for them in the future. She also recommends appealing to the younger populations at a local, community level.
Collins shares a similar view as Doe. He states that young Americans today are neither selfish nor act solely for their own “self-interests.” However, he notes that there are jobless individuals who are 18-35 years old and are unlikely to consider Medicare and social security as an important issue. In order to fix this problem, he recommends changing the context of Medicare and social security to “healthcare.”
Young Americans, along with the older populations, are worried that patients will receive inadequate doctor visits or will have a difficult time contacting their primary-care physicians. Collins correctly points out that the “payment system influences the delivery system.” He suggests that by changing the context and looking at the retirement plans “holistically,” the issue could better appeal to the younger population.
As previously mentioned, the two panelists were very optimistic on the future of social security and Medicare programs. They are confident that the younger generations are ready to engage and fight for social safety nets.
In my opinion, these two panelists are far too optimistic. As we begin to implement the ACA, it is inevitable that the payroll taxes will increase along with healthcare premiums. There is evidence that healthcare premiums will significantly increase for healthy, younger individuals. The study conducted by the American Action Forum shows that there will be an increase of up to 100% in premiums for young purchasers.
Not only is it important to take immediate action to reduce our overall spending but also it is imperative that our government leaders think of the future when making important policy decisions potentially affecting healthcare costs.
The financial burdens that the younger generation will face in the future are daunting and scary. Even the already-retired individuals are tapping into their own savings account to cover their own expenses.
I do hope that my fellow young Americans are aware of this critical situation. Younger Americans may be less reluctant to care about Medicare or social security, but it is very important to think about it now because it will impact us financially in the future.