As part of his counter-offer to President Obama's plan to avert the so call fiscal cliff, House Speaker John Bohener proposed raising the eligibility age of Medicare, the government health insurance program for the elderly, from 65 to 67. Entitlement programs make up an increasing part of federal spending, and with the baby boomer population entering retirement, it stands grow even larger. Though many agree that entitlement reform is a necessary part of a budget deal, there is disagreement on how exactly to overhaul Medicare and other programs.
Proponents of raising the Medicare age point out that the eligibility age has not changed since the program was established in 1965, even thought the average American life span has grown. Raising the age limit would cut $148 billion from the program's cost in the next decade, they say.
Opponents argue that whatever raising the age will save the government, it will cost the American people much more. The 65-to-67 age group would be shifted from the Medicare risk pool, where they are youngest and thus the least costly to insure, to the private insurance risk pool, where they would be the oldest and would raise premiums. Younger Americans would end up having to absorb the cost, which opponents say would be double the amount of money the government saved.
Should the Medicare eligibility age be raised? Here is the Debate Club's take:
Debra Whitman AARP Executive Vice President for Policy and International
Sy Mukherjee Health Reporter for ThinkProgress
Ethan Rome Executive Director of Health Care for America Now
David E. Williams Cofounder of MedPharma Partners LLC,
James Capretta Visiting Fellow at the American Enterprise Institute
Robert Moffit Senior Fellow at the Heritage Foundation