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Increasing The Medicare Eligibility Age: A Smaller Bargain

From Politico:


President Barack Obama and House Speaker John Boehner failed to strike a “grand bargain” on the nation’s deficit, but they may have pulled off another trick: revolutionizing the debate over Medicare.

When they both accepted the idea of increasing the Medicare eligibility age to 67, they gave a controversial idea more legitimacy and high-profile support than it’s ever gotten before.

The White House’s Fiscal Commission, led by Erskine Bowles and Alan Simpson, listed the idea of raising the eligibility age with the likes of such dramatic structural changes as the public option, block grants or an all-payer system. Alice Rivlin and former Sen. Pete Domenici didn’t even bring up the idea in their deficit report. And the top Democrats in both the House and Senate brushed aside the concept just last month.

But now the idea of raising the eligibility age has gotten the support of Obama and Boehner. While the age change is not expected to be part of the latest debt ceiling compromises, the idea is now likely to be a permanent fixture in the Medicare debate and, someday, to become a reality.

The idea has been loosely supported by Republicans in the past. Continue reading

An Uncertain Future For Medicare and Medicaid

From Politico:

The Obama administration could be faced with obligations to spend cash it  doesn’t have.

By J. LESTER FEDER| 7/21/11 10:47 PM EDT

A default scenario is so unthinkable that not too many people have thought about what happens to Medicare and Medicaid if a deal isn’t reached.

One longtime Washington health hand said he had not contemplated the overall picture of what happens after Aug. 2 without a deal because, “I think it’s unlikely, but it’s also kind of [too] horrible” to think about.

But people are getting nervous enough that it’s time to give the issue real thought, said Julius Hobson, former congressional affairs director for the American Medical Association.

“I think up until last week people were buying into that usual, conventional wisdom that they’d get that grand deal, and now they’re being disabused of that notion,” he said.

So what does happen? Does Medicare keep making payments? If Social Security checks continue to go out, will Medicare premiums be withheld? Will states get their Medicaid dollars? Continue reading

America: Balance Budget Without Rep. Ryan’s Medicare Cuts

From Politico:

The poll comes as Republicans are feeling pushback from voters over Paul Ryan’s budget plan. | AP Photo


Americans aren’t convinced that cuts to Medicare and Social Security are necessary to balance the federal budget, a new poll found on Monday, even as lawmakers continue to argue that the programs must be reined in.

An Associated Press-GfK poll showed that 54 percent of Americans think that the budget can be balanced without cuts to Medicare, while 59 percent said the same about Social Security. On the other hand, 44 percent said that Medicare cuts are needed, while 39 percent said the same about Social Security. Continue reading

Are Worried Seniors Hoisting The Ladders Behind Them?

From The New Yorker’s Financial Page:

by James Surowiecki (Nov. 22, 2010)

As shellackings go, the 2010 election was as comprehensive as it gets. Democrats lost among women, men, high-school graduates, college graduates, Catholics, Protestants, and so on. But there was one demographic group whose repudiation was especially influential: senior citizens. In the 2006 midterm election, seniors split their vote evenly between House Democrats and Republicans. This time, they went for Republicans by a twenty-one-point margin. The impact of that swing was magnified by the fact that seniors, always pretty reliable midterm voters, were particularly fired up: nearly a quarter of the votes cast were from people over sixty-five. The election has been termed the “revolt of the middle class.” But it might more accurately be called the revolt of the retired.

Why were seniors so furious with the Democrats? The weak economy and the huge deficits didn’t help, but retirees have actually been hit less hard by the financial crisis than other Americans. The real sticking point was health-care reform, which the elderly didn’t like from the start. While the Affordable Care Act was being debated, most seniors opposed it, and even after the law was passed Gallup found that sixty per cent of them thought it was bad. You sometimes hear (generally from Republicans) that the health-care bill is wildly unpopular. The truth is that, in every age group but one—seniors—a plurality of voters want to keep the bill intact.

Misinformation about “death panels” and so on had something to do with seniors’ hostility. But the real reason is that it feels to them as if health-care reform will come at their expense, since the new law will slow the growth in Medicare spending over the next decade. It won’t actually cut current spending, as Republicans claimed in campaign ads, but between now and 2019 total Medicare outlays will be half a trillion dollars less than previously projected. Never mind that this number includes cost savings from more efficient care, or that the bill has a host of provisions that benefit seniors—most notably the closing of the infamous drug-benefit “doughnut hole,” which had left people responsible for thousands of dollars in prescription-drug costs. The idea that the government might try to restrain Medicare spending was enough to turn seniors against the bill.

Continue reading