Practically everyone with “sources” in the White House has weighed in on this Medicare eligibility age debate. Some have stated that the idea is on the table in negotiations, others have categorically denied it. Resolved, it’s a big White House with lots of staffers, many of whom try to push their preferred paths through the media, and a story with sources saying raising the eligibility age is an option, and a story with sources saying it isn’t, can both be right.
Also resolved, staffers in this White House in particular float trial balloons on a continual basis on virtually every issue of importance to gauge public response, and the whole point of that exercise is to actually respond to it rather than not take it seriously. And if that’s the case, and the eligibility age conversation represented a trial balloon, I think we can say it’s been effectively and efficiently popped. Because over the weekend, Dick Durbin, perhaps the closest US Senator to the White House, criticized the idea:
DAVID GREGORY (HOST): Senator, one point about Medicare. You say you want to put off this discussion until later. But bottom line, should the Medicare eligibility age go up? Should there be means testing to get at the benefits side, if you want to shore this program up, because 12 years as you say before it runs out of money?
DURBIN: I do believe there should be means testing. and those of us with higher income in retirement should pay more. That could be part of the solution. But when you talk about raising the eligibility age, there’s one key question. what happens to the early retiree? What about that gap in coverage between workplace and Medicare? How will they be covered? I listened to Republicans say we can’t wait to repeal Obamacare, and the insurance exchanges. Well, where does a person turn if they are 65 years of age and the medicare eligibility age is 67? They have two years there where they may not have the best of health. They need accessible, affordable medical insurance during that period.
Neera Tanden, currently the head of CAP, also went out of her way to reject raising the eligibility age on Up with Chris Hayes Sunday. Tanden worked in the White House, and CAP is very closely aligned with the Administration as well.