Liberals Oppose Increasing Medicare Eligibility Age

Liberals in Congress are strongly opposing any increase in the eligibility age for Medicare.

The last issue of this newsletter documented the serious financial problems Medicare faces, both medium and long term, and provided prescriptions to solve these difficulties.

The 2012 Annual Report of the Medicare Board of Trustees stated the actual facts:

The Hospital Insurance (HI) Trust Fund again fails the test of short-range financial adequacy…The Fund also continues to fail the long-range test of close actuarial balance.

The solutions for Medicare are similar to the solutions for Social Security, only even more urgent:

1.  Increase the eligibility age to at least 70, maybe 73, or even 75.  This should be done soon--not gradually.  

2.  Require large deductibles for those seniors with extremely high incomes.  Even very wealthy retirees could eventually need Medicare.  But it is not unreasonable to ask them to use a portion of their vast resources before receiving Medicare benefits.

At a bare minimum, it would be logical to bring up the eligibility age for Medicare so that it is consistent with Social Security eligibility, which is now being very gradually raised over a 22-year period to age 67.

It's hard to see how this could be controversial, but the liberals in the House and Senate seem prepared to "fight to the death" to keep the eligibility age for Medicare at 65.

The Hill said that 73 House Democrats signed a letter to President Obama urging him not to agree to raise the Medicare eligibility age as part of an agreement on deficit reduction.

And in an op ed article in USA Today, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) wrote:

Raising the Medicare age asks the most vulnerable citizens to pay more with little to show for it in terms of long-term deficit reduction or more affordable care, for seniors or anyone else.

The Hill reported that, at her weekly news conference, Pelosi was even more dogmatic.  

"Don't even think about raising the Medicare age," she said.  "We are not throwing America's seniors over the cliff to give a tax cut to the wealthiest people in America."

Pelosi must be the only person in the entire country who doesn't know that, as part of a package to increase taxes on the wealthiest people, spending cuts in entitlement spending would be included as a way of keeping Medicare solvent.  

As for Pelosi's claim that an increase in the Medicare eligibility age would "have little to show for it in long-term deficit reduction," you would think the House Minority Leader would consult the facts before making such a public statement.  

The Congressional Budget Office calculates that, just a two year age increase, from 65 to 67, would result in a net savings of $113 Billion over the next decade. But maybe $113 Billion is "little" to Pelosi.

Another issue of The Hill stated that the outgoing chairman of the House Democratic Caucus, Rep. John Larson (CT), said that Democrats are willing to cut more from entitlement programs, but warned that direct benefit cuts "would be a big leap for our caucus."

That's the point. If the eligibility age is not increased, the alternative will be to ration benefits, i.e. deny high-cost treatments to seniors nearing the end of their lives.  

Dick GephardtThere is already a dangerous mechanism in place for doing this in Obamacare, the Independent Payment Advisory Board (IPAB), which former Congressman Dick Gephardt (MO) (pictured), Pelosi's predecessor as House Democratic Leader, said would have "devastating consequences for the seniors and disabled Americans."

To prevent IPAB from being used for euthanasia for the elderly, it is absolutely essential the eligibility age for Medicare be increased.

Of course, special provision must be made for those persons whose poor health requires them to retire sooner than provided by law and to receive Medicare benefits upon retirement.

The Social Security Administration states that the life expectancy in the U.S. is now 83 for men and 85 for women.

There are many good reasons to raise the eligibility ages for both Social Security and Medicare.

The previous issue of What's Happening with Seniors Benefits: How to Save Medicare—And How Not To

The previous issue What's Happening with Conservatives and the Tea Party: GOP Lost 174 State Legislative Seats
 
Previous issues of both newsletters.

Follow Art Kelly on Twitter @ArthurKellyJr

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