The threat to Medicare is very real and pressing. Over the past several months more and more political forces in Washington have being slowly lining up behind a campaign to raise the Medicare eligibility age. This most recent effort really got started when Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-CT) and Tom Coburn (R-OK) put forward a bill to raise the Medicare retirement age in late May.
It got a major push in July when Obama privately offered it up as part of a “grand bargain” on the debt ceiling with Speaker John Boehner. It probably got another push in Obama’s jobs speech last night when the president suggested he still wants to change Medicare in a way “some in his party” won’t like.
The campaign also got a behind-the-scenes boost this week. First, the Democratic members of the House Ways and Means committee included raising the Medicare retirement age in a memo to the Super Committee outlining possible deficit reduction options. But more importantly, the powerful American Hospital Association came out in favor of it.
The American Hospital Association has a strategy for heading off any more Medicare payment cuts: Tell Congress to get the money from Medicare beneficiaries instead. The association is urging its nearly 5,000 members to lobby Congress to raise the Medicare eligibility age from 65 to 67, in addition to other money-saving alternatives, according to spokeswoman Marie Watteau.
It is no surprise the hospital industry wants to see the change. Raising the Medicare retirement age means old people will be forced to buy overpriced private insurance instead. Private insurance pays hospitals more than Medicare because they lack Medicare’s market power. It is one of the few ways to cut the government’s Medicare spending while increasing profits for the health care industry — at the expense of older Americans.
We are seeing a convergence of deficit hysteria, a Democratic president who wants to have a “Nixon goes to China moment” with Medicare and powerful corporate lobbyists in pursuit of bigger profits.
Medicare is in serious danger and so is your wallet. This move will not just hurt those near retirement but would mean higher premiums for everyone on Medicare and millions of with private insurance.
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