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Senate Proposal to Raise Medicare Eligibility Age Draws Quick Democrat Opposition

Proposal by Senators Coburn, Lieberman would increase eligible age to 67, save $600 billion

June 29, 2011 - As negotiations over raising the nation's debt ceiling continue, two senators - Tom Coburn, R-Okla., and Joseph Lieberman, I-Conn. - advanced a new plan to produce the amount of savings from the Medicare program need to meet the debt reduction target. The approach, though, which includes raising the eligibility age to 67, was swiftly rejected by top Democrats.

Top Democrats Reject New Plan to Cut Medicare Spending

Leading congressional Democrats immediately recoiled Tuesday from a new proposal to cut $600 billion in Medicare spending over the next decade in part by raising the eligibility age. Sens. Joseph I. Lieberman (I-Conn.) and Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) unveiled the proposal as part of a bipartisan effort to produce the kind of savings necessary to achieve the $2 trillion in debt reduction both parties say is needed to convince reticent lawmakers to vote to raise the debt ceiling, according to a report by The Washington Post.


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The Post reports it would raise Medicare's eligibility age from 65 to 67 and assess higher premiums on wealthier seniors. The proposal echoes Republican demands that entitlement reform especially deep cuts in Medicare spending be a part of any agreement to raise the nation's debt ceiling. But the swift rejection of the proposal among Democrats reflects the significant obstacles that remain to any agreement to cut the deficit and raise the nation's legal borrowing limit (Helderman and Kane, 6/28).

The Associated Press: Coburn, Lieberman Seek To Raise Medicare Age To 67

Two Senate rebels jumped into Congress' cut-the-deficit competition on Tuesday, proposing to raise the age of Medicare eligibility to 67 and increase monthly premiums for millions of current beneficiaries. Democrats reacted with criticism of the proposal, which Coburn said was designed to rescue the financially imperiled program and help the nation confront a "wall of debt." Republicans betrayed no sign of support either (Espo, 6/28).

McClatchy: Senators Offer Bipartisan Plan To Trim Medicare Costs

A bipartisan team of senators aims to raise the Medicare retirement age to 67 and require the wealthy to pay more for their care as part of the White House-congressional effort to dramatically reduce federal deficits.

The plan, authored by Sens. Joseph Lieberman, I-Conn., and Tom Coburn, R-Okla., would save an estimated $600 billion in the cost of Medicare, the government's health care program for the elderly and some disabled. While the plan is expected to meet strong resistance, some of its elements could be incorporated into a bipartisan deal (Lightman, 6/28).

Los Angeles Times: White House Pushes For Progress On Debt Talks As Senators Float New Medicare Proposal

Republicans want to extract steep spending cuts in exchange for their vote to allow more borrowing capacity. Democrats want to reduce tax loopholes on corporations and wealthy Americans to raise new revenue, a proposition the GOP has refused. (Mascaro, 6/28).

Bloomberg: Senators Propose Raising Medicare Entrance Age To Cut Costs

Two U.S. senators known for having independent streaks are proposing to overhaul Medicare by raising the eligibility age by two years and requiring the wealthy to pay more out of pocket for care. Senators Tom Coburn, the conservative Oklahoma Republican known for objecting to legislation, and Joseph Lieberman, the Connecticut independent and former member of the Democratic caucus, introduced their proposal today. The government projects Medicare, the U.S. health insurance program for the elderly and disabled, will run out of funds to pay full benefits in 2024.

"We can't save Medicare as we know it," Lieberman said in a statement. "We can only save Medicare if we change it" (Armstrong, 6/28).

MarketWatch: Coburn, Liberman Want To Raise Medicare Eligibility Age

House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi said Tuesday it's "unacceptable" to raise the eligibility age for Medicare. Comments like that were exactly what Oklahoma Republican Sen. Tom Coburn, co-author of the new Medicare reform plan in the former House speaker's crosshairs, was expecting. But Coburn and Connecticut independent Sen. Joe Lieberman are pressing on with their plan to, among other things, gradually raise the eligibility age to 67 and make seniors pay more for prescription drugs. They say it would save more than $600 billion over a decade (Schroeder, 6/28).

NPR: Medicare Proposal Could Stress Strapped Seniors

Sens. Tom Coburn (R-OK) Joe Lieberman (I-CT) say the savings to be realized from their bill would both help reduce the nation's debt and shore up Medicare's shaking financial situation. Among other things their bill would combine the current separate deductibles for Medicare's Part A (hospital and inpatient care) and Part B (physician and outpatient care) into one single deductible. Because so few Medicare patients actually use hospital care each year, that would have the effect of raising out-of pocket spending for the majority of people on the program (Rovner, 6/28).

Meanwhile, a wonky twist on reality TV

Modern Healthcare: Budget Campaign Produces New 'Reality' TV
This week, the Coalition to Protect America's Healthcare a group of hospitals, businesses, and national, state and local associations will get real as it broadcasts the group's earlier-announced campaign to educate Congress and the public about how proposed cuts to Medicare and Medicaid will affect America's hospitals.

Although the organization already distributed an ad in some Beltway publications last month, it is expanding that message on a larger scale, according to Richard Pollack, executive vice president for advocacy and public policy at the American Hospital Association, one of the members of the Coalition that began in 2000. Pollack described the effort as a "multimillion, multiweek" campaign that will be seen on the national cable channels MSNBC, Fox and CNN and also broadcast in local networks. The campaign will also include print and radio spots (Zigmond, 6/28).

This is part of Kaiser Health News' Daily Report - a summary of health policy coverage from more than 300 news organizations.


Some of this information is reprinted from kaiserhealthnews.org with permission from the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. You can view the entire Kaiser Daily Health Policy Report, search the archives and sign up for email delivery. Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. All rights reserved.


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