Why Are So Many Working-Age People On Medicare Since Obamacare Started?

Gallup has released the full results of its first quarter survey of health insurance. It concludes that the proportion of uninsured Americans has collapsed to the lowest level ever – 11.9 percent.

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The early release of the estimate had predicted 12.3 percent, and it got a little better as the dust has settled on the second open season.

The figure below, which compares Q1 2015 with Q4 2014 shows how misleading the percentage is. As I explained in my discussion of Gallup’s Q4 2014 release, only the people who have employer-based benefits can be said to be paying for their own health insurance. They decreased 0.9 percentage points in the quarter.


People on Medicaid (which went up 2.1 percentage points) are simply on welfare. Lumping them in with people who have employer-based benefits is like lumping people getting welfare checks and people getting paychecks into the same group of “income recipients.” The respondents whom Gallup classifies as having “a plan paid for by self or family member” (which went up 3.5 percentage points) are in Obamacare exchanges. Most of their premiums are paid by taxpayers, so they are mostly dependent, not independent, with respect to having health insurance.

If we go back and compare the types of coverage in Q3 2013 to Q1 2015, we see that the proportion of those with employer based benefits dropped from 44.4 percent to 43.3 percent; those on Medicaid jumped from 6.8 percent to 9.0 percent; and those with “self” paid plans spiked from 16.7 percent to 21.1 percent.

Here’s what I do not understand: The proportion of people aged 18 through 64 on Medicare increased from 6.4 percent to 7.3 percent. There are three ways to get Medicare if you are under 65: Receive Social Security Disability Benefits, suffer from End-Stage Renal Disease, or suffer from Lou Gehrig’s Disease (ALS). I cannot see how Obamacare increased any of these three situations.

Comments (5)

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  1. Big Truck Joe says:

    Obamacare didn’t increase Medicare participation, but the Obama economy has forced more on SSI disability for lack of jobs. These folks are not counted as part of the BLS unemployment figures so it’s a win win for the administration. Rarely reported record number of unemployed seek govt benefits through disability because of hard to clinically prove back pain or anxiety. Blame the Obama economy not the Obama health plan.

  2. Bob Hertz says:

    I do not like the increase in Social Security disability any more than you do, John, but I do not blame Obama at all.

    First of all, presidents do not create an economy in my view. They stand around while economies go good or bad. Bill Clinton did not create prosperity in 1992, and George H.W. Bush did not create a recession.

    We may disagree about this but I think I am right.

    Secondly, and more important. there is a huge glut of 55 and 60 year olds with blue collar skills at best, and there are very few jobs for them. There are a lot of divorced or single women of that age with no technical skills also.

    When they cannot find any more than a Walmart job, then Social Security disability at $900 a month (with Medicare after 2 years) looks pretty damn attractive.

    Obama did not make this happen. It is pure demographics.

  3. Bob Hertz says:

    I would also add the following intuition:

    In the 1950;s, a heck of lot more 55 year olds died of heart disease, lung cancer, and advanced diabetes. My paternal grandparents were among them.

    We now save a lot of those lives. But the people whose lives we save often cannot get good jobs.

    I work in an insurance agency and I see this a lot.

    • Thank you. And this is one reason why Medicare costs per enrollee are moderate these days. The baby boomers are healthier at 65 than earlier Medicare enrollees were.