President Obama didn’t rule out raising the Medicare eligibility age from 65 to 67 as part of a comprehensive package to avert the so-called “fiscal cliff,” during an interview with ABC News on Tuesday.
Obama told Barbara Walters that keeping younger seniors out of the health care program is “something that’s been floated” and didn’t immediately reject the idea:
“When you look at the evidence, it’s not clear that it actually saves a lot of money,” he said. “But what I’ve said is let’s look at every avenue, because what is true is we need to strengthen Social Security, we need to strengthen Medicare for future generations, the current path is not sustainable because we’ve got an aging population and health care costs are shooting up so quickly.”
Indeed, the idea — which has been floated by Republicans demanding “painful” cuts in the Medicare program — would only save the federal government a net $5.7 billion, while shifting an added $11.4 billion in health care spending to states, employers, and individuals.
A report released by the Center for American Progress on Tuesday found that if lawmakers were to raise the eligibility age to 67, as many as 5.4 million 65- and 66-year-olds would have to search for alternative sources of coverage by postponing retirement, enrolling in private insurance, or qualifying for Medicaid.