By Arnold Kling
John B. Shoven and Gopi Shah Goda touch the third rail.
the Normal Retirement Age for Social Security in 2004 would have to be at least 71 (using lowest number in the table) and more likely 73 or 74 (using the gender blended results from Methods 1 and 2) in order to be consistent with the real age of 65 in 1935. Using the same logic, the age of Medicare eligibility would have needed to have been advanced by at least five years. Such adjustments would be politically difficult, but age inflation and the lack of adjusting for it has quite a bit to do with the solvency problems of Social Security and Medicare.
I cannot think of any policy change that I have advocated for longer or more often than that of raising the age of eligibility for Social Security and Medicare. Keeping the age of government dependency at 65 is the most insidious and quantitatively important reason for government expansion and the pending rise in tax rates.
The tendency is for the last few years of life to be ones of severe medical problems. However, those last few years are being pushed back. This would mean that if people have to work longer to support themselves, many would be healthy enough to do so (and others could be entitled to disability insurance). However, the reduction in Medicare spending would be relatively small, because many of the people who would lose Medicare eligibility would be relatively healthy.