This article provides a systematic evaluation of the options for incremental health insurance reforms aimed at older Americans nearing age sixty-five. It presents three basic arguments for giving special consideration to this age group: (1) early retirement and its effect on access to employer insurance; (2) changes in health and health care expenses associated with increasing age; (3) the vulnerability to unexpected economic or health“shocks” that will affect people throughout their retirement. The analysis of policy options begins by specifying criteria for evaluating alternative approaches to reform. The proposed criteria emphasize that reforms for this age group should be designed to fit with other financial plans and decisions made during such a transitional stage of life. Policy options should be judged according to fundamental goals such as equity and efficiency, not simply ranked according to the number of uninsured who will gain coverage. After offering a comprehensive catalog and evaluation of available options,the analysis identifies and discusses a preferred approach—which preserves choices while offering universal and subsidized access to Medicare before age sixty-five.

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