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Is Obama Selling Us Out on Medicare?

Hiking the eligibility age is such a terrible idea Obama can't possibly be considering it. Or can he?

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The truth is, Obama should be pushing to lower the Medicare eligibility age, to let those 55 and over opt to buy into the program with their own money. The premiums paid by a younger, healthier cohort would help stabilize the program, while the benefits of getting that population insured earlier would keep costs down later. That’ll never happen, you say? Well, we can make sure it’ll never happen if progressives never ask for it.

Honestly, the only real reason to throw seniors into the Obamacare pool is to put more people at the mercy of private insurance, and weaken both the economic and political basis for Medicare. On “Up With Chris” today — hosted by our own Steve Kornacki, and featuring me as a guest — former Romney “health policy advisor” Avik Roy enthusiastically backed the notion of moving seniors from Medicare to Obamacare, even though his former boss wanted to repeal Obamacare, as you’ll recall. Here’s what he said:

I have to respond to this interesting hyperbole about Medicare…If you raise the retirement age for Medicare, we have the Affordable Care Act as the backstop. Everybody under 400% poverty level is still covered with the affordable care act in place. So what we are really talking about is means testing Medicare by raising the retirement age. People who are upper income, above 400% of the poverty level won’t be subsidized if they’re younger retirees. It’s where entitlement reform should go, to expand it into the retiree population.

Actually, it’s where the GOP thinks “entitlement reform” should go — into the private sector, with mutual funds handling Social Security, and private insurance taking back the Medicare population. If this is what Obama is trying to do, then he’s ignoring the vote he just received and betraying the social movements that got us the rights we have today.

So I don’t believe the White House will ultimately make this deal — and I’m not accusing Klein or anyone else of fabricating the story; I’m just hoping it’s a trial balloon,  as Digby says, that we’re meant to shoot down. But that means progressives are right to yell like hell to make sure.


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