Report: Obama Offered To Raise Medicare Eligibility Age In “Grand Deal”

This is interesting:

WASHINGTON — In his press conference on Monday morning, President Barack Obama repeatedly insisted that he was willing to tackle some sacred cows as part of a larger package to raise the debt ceiling. Just how sacred, however, may surprise political observers.

According to five separate sources with knowledge of negotiations — including both Republicans and Democrats — the president offered an increase in the eligibility age for Medicare, from 65 to 67, in exchange for Republican movement on increasing tax revenues.

The proposal, as discussed, would not go into effect immediately, but rather would be implemented down the road (likely in 2013). The age at which people would be eligible for Medicare benefits would be raised incrementally, not in one fell swoop.

Sources offered varied accounts regarding the seriousness with which the president had discussed raising the Medicare eligibility age. As the White House is fond of saying, nothing is agreed to until everything is agreed to. And with Republicans having turned down a “grand” deal on the debt ceiling — which would have included $3 trillion in spending cuts, including entitlement reforms, in exchange for up to $1 trillion in revenues — it is unclear whether the proposal remains alive.

“That is one of the things they put on the table as part of a big solution,” said one senior Republican Hill aide.

“It was considered in the context of the big deal,” added a top Democratic source briefed on the deliberations.

Not surprisingly, the lefty blogosphere isn’t too happy about this. Here’s a sampling of reaction so far.

Think Progress:

If the provision ends up in the final package, however, Democrats won’t only cede the political debate about the efficacy of privatizing Medicare, they’ll be accepting a portion of the Paul Ryan budget and effectively forcing Americans between 64 and 65 years of age to purchase coverage from private insurers in the state-based exchanges.

Daily Kos:

Not only is this terribly policy, it’s awful politics, too. Right now, we have an incredibly strong messaging advantage on Medicare, thanks to Ryan’s Curse—something many Democrats realize. But the GOP won’t hesitate for a second to accuse us of weakening or even wanting to destroy Medicare if we do something like reduce its availability. So not only would we risk getting killed at the ballot box, we’d be hurting countless vulnerable Americans who are desperate for Medicare coverage—and wind up making healthcare more expensive. That’s a triple-whammy we simply don’t need.

On the right, meanwhile, Allahpundit is skeptical

My assumption all along has been that Obama’s floating these “grand bargain” packages involving minor entitlement reforms as pure political theater, knowing that the GOP will reject them on tax grounds and fall back to a smaller package of spending cuts only, which O will sign. Then he can turn around and sell himself next year not only as the guy who approved $2.5 trillion in cuts or whatever, but as the adult in the room who was willing to tackle entitlements before Republicans backed out of the deal to protect the rich, etc. In other words, the strategy is simply to make his opponents choke on their tax pledge, even though Obama’s own Deficit Commission offered him a way to reduce debt as a percentage of GDP by lowering tax rates across the board and eliminating special exemptions and credits. (Aside: If Geithner’s telling the truth about the sky falling three weeks from now, why is Obama wasting time with electoral gambits?) According to lefty Greg Sargent, though, both Chuck Schumer and Patty Murray are grumbling privately that the White House’s flirtation with Medicare reform is poisoning their big “Paul Ryan wants to kill your grandma” messaging campaign for next year. Presumably this is all kabuki, where Obama panders to centrists before 2012 by pretending to triangulate on entitlements while liberal Dems pander to their base by pretending that they’re worried about him selling them out

This may be correct, but what if the GOP had called Obama’s bluff? I guess we’ll never know.





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Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. PD Shaw says:

    Particularly odd since one of the popular, but not quite popular enough, proposals for Obamacare was lowering the Medicare eligiblity age. I don’t recall Obama sounding off on the issue though.

  2. Ben Wolf says:

    What’s odd is this immediate assumption Obama was bluffing, as the man has been talking about cutting Medicare and Social Security since five seconds after the election.

    Sooner or later the right is going to have to face facts: the president has given in on every Republican demand on the deficit. All he asked in return was for a few hundred billion in new tax revenue.

    But then again KenyaMuslimSocialist, so shut up.

  3. Gustopher says:

    Never trust unnamed sources.

  4. Pug says:

    Medicare reform is poisoning their big “Paul Ryan wants to kill your grandma” messaging campaign for next year.

    Isn’t “killing Granny” the message the Republicans used in the 2010 elections? Literally?

  5. sam says:

    “In other words, the strategy is simply to make his opponents choke on their tax pledge”

    Or, as O’Donnell pointed out last night, this is the single greatest execution of rope-a-dope in modern political history. The degree-of-difficulty ranking of the feat will have to be adjusted downward, of course, given the to-the-bone stupidity of the Republicans. Morons.

  6. stonetools says:

    Is Obama playing chess while the rest of us are playing checkers? Dunno. What I do know is that after this absurd debt ceiling kabuki is done, we are going to need bold progressive action to get the economy moving and unemployment down. My hope is that the Republicans will be so completely discredited among independents by their hostage taking , that Obama will have political capital to take such action. I also hope he will have the WILL to take such action. I’m not even too sure about that