Medicare Changes Central As 'Fiscal Cliff' Countdown Continues

The Washington Post reports that some Republicans are urging House leaders to back higher tax rates for the wealthy in exchange for a deal to rein in spending on safety-net programs. Other news outlets report that AARP and other groups are warning lawmakers about the hazards of cutting benefits as part of a deficit reduction package.

The Washington Post: Some In GOP Urge Lawmakers To Back Tax Hikes For Changes In Safety-Net Programs
A growing chorus of Republicans is urging House leaders to abandon their staunch opposition to higher tax rates for the wealthy with the aim of clearing the way for a broad deal that would also rein in the cost of federal health and retirement programs (Montgomery and Helderman, 12/5).

Kaiser Health News: Medicare Changes Loom As 'Fiscal Cliff' Negotiations Pick Up
Kaiser Health News staff writer Mary Agnes Carey talks with Jackie Judd about the deficit talks and possible cuts in federal spending on health care programs (12/5).

Reuters: Medicare Emerging As Prime Target In U.S. "Fiscal Cliff" Talks
With rival Democratic and Republican deficit plans increasingly focused on Medicare, experts say the two sides could be edging toward common ground on important changes to the popular health insurance program for seniors and the disabled. None of the changes are assured and any specific decisions would come only after resolution of the "fiscal cliff," the combination of tax hikes and spending cuts that's driving the discussion (Morgan, 12/5).

Bloomberg: Raising Medicare Age May Save U.S. More Than $100 Billion
A Republican proposal to raise the eligibility age for Medicare may save the federal government more than $100 billion while increasing health-care costs to senior citizens, states and employers. People age 65 and older could pay an extra $2,000 for health insurance if they’re excluded from Medicare, the federal health-care program for the elderly, according to the nonpartisan Kaiser Family Foundation. Other government and private health plans would see costs rise as would-be Medicare recipients seek care elsewhere (Faler and Wayne, 12/6).

MPR: Fiscal Cliff: It Isn't Just Taxes And Spending On The Table
The threat of big tax increases and spending cuts has meant great business for the airlines. All kinds of people have been visiting Washington recently to lobby about the "fiscal cliff" — the automatic spending cuts and tax increases that will occur next year if Congress does not agree on a financial plan. They include Gov. Mark Dayton, who had a chance to tell President Barack Obama this week what areas he thought should be spared if big spending cuts happen. "Health care would be my number one and education number two but that's where the money is so realistically, something's going to happen," Dayton said. But there are many other policy issues that are important to Minnesota that could get wrapped into any agreement that comes out of the talks. That explains why many of the visitors to the nation's capitol have narrower interests (Neely, 12/6).

The Hill: AARP Hits Capitol Hill To Warn Against Benefit Cuts In Deficit Deal
Staff and volunteers with AARP met with lawmakers Wednesday to warn against cuts to Social Security and Medicare in a year-end deficit-reduction package. The nation's largest senior lobby has been vocal in its opposition to benefit cuts as lawmakers negotiate with the White House to avoid the so-called "fiscal cliff," a combination of tax increases and spending cuts set to hit Jan. 1. "Americans have spoken and they don’t want Congress or the president to make changes to Social Security or Medicare in any last minute deficit deal," said AARP's volunteer President Rob Romasco in a statement (Viebeck, 12/5).

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