With time running out to resolve the fiscal cliff debate, Republicans seem likely to back a tax hike for the rich to shift the focus onto cutting costs of entitlement programs like Medicare.
Republicans favor a plan to raise the age of eligibility for Medicare from 65 to 67, a move that could save more than $100 billion but have other cost-raising consequences, according to Bloomberg News.
Lawmakers on both sides agree that somehow reining in the cost of Medicare, the federal health care program for the elderly and disabled, is key to settling the budget problem. Americans are living longer. Chronic diseases are more common. The cost of medical care is rising in general with more drugs and innovations in treatment available.
Experts say if the Medicare age is raised, these 65 and 66-year-olds would seek private or other government health care, raising the costs of premiums for those programs. Employer costs would go up because older workers would need to stay on company insurance plans. Meanwhile, Medicare would be losing these same adults, who in that pool are the healthier, less expensive people to insure, forcing Medicare premiums to go up, the Associated Press reports.
Raising the age for Medicare also doesn't address one of the major sources of Medicare spending: end of life care, the Bloomberg story said.