Raising Medicare's Eligibility Age Is Tough Issue For Democrats

Though one leading Senate Democrat has signaled that the idea of raising Medicare's eligibility is off the negotiating table, it's not clear where this bargaining chit stands.

Politico: Fiscal Cliff: Medicare Eligibility Age Off The Table For White House, Dick Durbin Says
Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin told reporters Thursday that the White House is no longer considering raising the Medicare eligibility age as part of fiscal cliff talks. ... Democrats and liberal groups have put heavy pressure on the White House in recent days not to support an increase in the Medicare eligibility age from 65 to 67 (Gibson, 12/13).

The Associated Press/Detroit News: Durbin: White House Won't Yield On GOP Demands To Increase Medicare Eligibility Age
But Illinois Democratic Sen. Dick Durbin said he didn't get it directly from the president or the White House. However, he is regularly updated on the negotiations. ... Durbin's comments on the Medicare eligibility age were surprising, since top Senate Democrats like Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada, have been careful to not preclude the possibility of agreeing to such an increase — perhaps as a late-stage concession in a potential deal between Obama and Boehner (Taylor, 12/13).

Politico: Dem Split On Medicare Concessions In Cliff Talks
A growing number of Democrats in the Senate are ready to offer up a key concession on Medicare to try to reach a deal on the fiscal cliff: higher premium payments for wealthy seniors. But that might not get them very far. Means testing won’t reduce Medicare costs enough for Republicans who want a big deal on entitlements and the idea still outrages some liberal Democrats (Haberkorn and Raju, 12/13).

NPR: Making The Rich Pay More For Medicare
Besides, making the rich pay more would hardly be breaking new ground. Medicare already charges wealthy people more and poor people less. "We already don't have a common standard social insurance system where everybody gets the same benefits," [Heritage Foundation's Robert] Moffit says. "We already have means testing" (Rovner, 12/14).

Attention is also focused on Medicaid spending -

The Wall Street Journal: Cantor: Democrats Back Off Medicaid Cuts
Republicans said Thursday that the Obama administration was backing away from proposals that would trim federal contributions to the Medicaid program, making it harder to reach a budget deal (Radnofsky and Hughes, 12/13).

The New York Times: In The Fiscal Debate, An Unvarnished Voice For Shielding Benefits
Today the issue of tax cuts for the wealthy is once again front and center in Washington, as part of the debate over how to reduce the federal deficit. And [Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt.,] is once again talking, carving out a place for himself as the antithesis of the Tea Party and becoming a thorn in the side to some Democrats and Mr. Obama, who he fears will cut Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid benefits as part of a deficit reduction deal (Stolberg,12/12).

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