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Life expectancy, race, gender, SES, and Medicare

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The news that part of the budget deal Obama offered to the GOP included raising the Medicare eligibility age from 65 to 67 should be digested in the context of the vast differences in life expectancy in the US population based on various demographic factors. Consider that the gap in life expectancy between Asian-American highest SES quintile females and African-American lowest SES quintile males is nearly 20 years, and that, for an African-American male born in 2007, moving the Medicare eligibility age from 65 to 67 will effectively reduce the time span during which he will be covered by Medicare by 40%. (On reflection the previous sentence is a statistically misleading and unhelpful way of phrasing the issue, because as several commentators have noted it conflates two separate questions: overall life expectancy and life expectancy of geriatric populations. It would be more accurate to say that as a matter of social justice the fact that large percentages of certain demographic cohorts — in particular low SES African American men — never benefit from old age programs ought to be taken into account when making cuts in those programs for those members of those cohorts who do benefit from them).

Update: Thoughts from Jon Cohn

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