Democrats have said they are willing to overhaul entitlements if Republicans agree to new tax revenues as part of a “grand bargain” to reduce the deficit, but don’t expect the Medicare eligibility age to be increased as part of any deal, Sen. Charles E. Schumer, D-N.Y., said Tuesday.
“I don’t think raising the age will happen,” Schumer, the Senate’s third-ranking Democrat, said during a speech at the National Press Club. “There’s a lot of opposition to it.”
Schumer sits on the the Senate Finance Committee and is a member of the Democratic leadership in the Senate. With a lame-duck session expected after the election to seek a way to avert sequestration and to address other fiscal issues, the public statements of senior member like Schumer are often seen a means of testing reaction to potential areas of compromise.
Schumer made it clear, though, that these ideas here his own, not of the Senate Democratic leadership.
Raising the current Medicare eligibility age from 65 to 67 has been advanced in deficit reduction plans as a way to trim Medicare spending. President Barack Obama’s bipartisan commission on fiscal responsiblity and reform said a higher Medicare eligibility age could be considered if program spending rose faster than expected. Medicare overhaul plans from GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney and his running mate, Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., include a higher Medicare eligibility age.
While changes to Medicare could be part of any deficit reduction plan debated in the upcoming post-election congressional session, Schumer says there’s no need to alter what the program offers. “You can save hundreds of billions of dollars and still keep the benefits structure,” he said.