The No. 2 Democrat in the House, Maryland Rep. Steny Hoyer, says raising the eligibility age and other cuts "clearly are on the table," although he doesn't see much chance for them if Republicans don't yield on taxes.
For his part, House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, has relented from pursuing other major changes to Medicare, such as privatization. But when it comes to the eligibility age, he is still pushing.
"It's a structural change but it doesn't require you to adopt a whole new model," said Scott Gottlieb, a health policy expert with the business-oriented American Enterprise Institute. "It can be enacted quickly so you get the savings, and it can be phased in so you don't affect people about to retire."
AARP and other groups representing older adults are mobilizing against it.
"We are prepared to oppose this one pretty strongly," said AARP legislative policy director David Certner. "It's a pretty big deal."
Raising the eligibility age is not the only Medicare cut in play. Hospitals and other service providers could see reductions in payments, drug companies may owe new rebates to the government and upper-income seniors would face higher monthly premiums. The total package could reach around $400 billion over 10 years.
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