Last week, Inside Health Policy’s Sahil Kapur wrote that negotiators may consider raising the Medicare eligibility age from 65 to 67 as part of an effort to reach a deal with Republicans on increasing the debt ceiling, and today Sam Stein confirms the report, noting that five separate sources with knowledge of negotiations have said that “the president offered an increase in the eligibility age for Medicare, from 65 to 67, in exchange for Republican movement on increasing tax revenues”:
The proposal, as discussed, would not go into effect immediately, but rather would be implemented down the road (likely in 2013). The age at which people would be eligible for Medicare benefits would be raised incrementally, not in one fell swoop.
Sources offered varied accounts regarding the seriousness with which the president had discussed raising the Medicare eligibility age. As the White House is fond of saying, nothing is agreed to until everything is agreed to. And with Republicans having turned down a “grand” deal on the debt ceiling — which would have included $3 trillion in spending cuts, including entitlement reforms, in exchange for up to $1 trillion in revenues — it is unclear whether the proposal remains alive.
“That is one of the things they put on the table as part of a big solution,” said one senior Republican Hill aide.
“It was considered in the context of the big deal,” added a top Democratic source briefed on the deliberations.
At his press conference this morning, Obama repeatedly highlighted his willingness to include cuts to entitlement programs in a final agreement. “And it is possible for us to construct a package that would be balanced, would share sacrifice, would involve both parties taking on their sacred cows, would involved some meaningful changes to Medicare, Social Security, and Medicaid that would preserve the integrity of the programs and keep our sacred trust with our seniors, but make sure those programs were there for not just this generation but for the next generation,” he said.
If the provision ends up in the final package, however, Democrats won’t only cede the political debate about the efficacy of privatizing Medicare, they’ll be accepting a portion of the Paul Ryan budget and effectively forcing Americans between 64 and 65 years of age to purchase coverage from private insurers in the state-based exchanges.