Sen. Bernie Sander (I-VT) pledged to oppose any effort to raise the Medicare eligibility age last night as he addressed Campaign for America Future’s Take Back The American Dream conference, arguing that too many Americans are already dying from poor access to health insurance:
“Forty-five thousand people are dying in America this year because they don’t have access to healthcare, and we’ll be damned if we’re going to allow more people to die by raising the eligibility age from 65 to 67,” Sanders told a liberal crowd gathered in Washington for the Take Back the American Dream conference. “Ain’t gonna happen.”
The Vermont liberal sounded a similar warning regarding proposals to scale back Social Security benefits.
“In the middle of the worst recession since the Great Depression, you know what you don’t do?” Sanders asked. “You don’t cut Social Security – that’s what you don’t do. And anybody who tells you that Social Security is part of the deficit problem is lying to you.”
Gradually raising the Medicare eligibility age had been initially considered by President Obama as part of larger deficit proposal, but was left out of his most recent deficit reduction plan. Sens. Joe Lieberman (I-CT) and Tom Coburn (R-OK) re-introduced the idea in their recent Medicare reduction proposal and have urged the super committee to adopt it. Hospitals have also been big boosters of the proposal.
But as Sanders put it, raising the age would increase costs for beneficiaries by moving seniors into more expensive private care and could potentially price some out of coverage altogether. The reform would save very little money and would only do so “by shifting costs to most of the 65- and 66-year-olds who would lose Medicare coverage, to employers that provide health coverage for their retirees, to Medicare beneficiaries, to younger people who buy insurance through the new health insurance exchanges, and to states.”