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Medicare Eligibility Age Increase Not Part Of Dems' Super Committee Presentation

Baucus Medicare

First Posted: 10/26/11 03:06 PM ET Updated: 10/26/11 07:54 PM ET

WASHINGTON -- Democrats on the congressional super committee have produced a "presentation" that would include a roughly equal mix of spending cuts and revenue increases to achieve an estimated $2.5 trillion to $3 trillion in deficit reduction.

The early reviews among progressives is that the outlines, as introduced by Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) on behalf of a number of Democrats on the Committee, contain a mix of good and bad policy. The good is the reliance on revenues and the decision to include between $200 billion and $300 billion in new economic stimulus in the presentation. The bad is that the plan calls for around $400 billion in Medicare savings, half of which would be drawn from reducing benefits to recipients. The confusion stems from the party's willingness to shoot far above the $1.5 trillion target that the super committee is supposed to aim for.

Sources tell The Huffington Post that the party has also staked out another position that the base will likely applaud. The presentation produced by Baucus and other Democrats does not call for a raising of the Medicare eligibility age. The idea of increasing that age from 65 to 67 had been a controversial component of talks that President Barack Obama and House Speaker John Boehner had held in late August when negotiating legislation to raise the nation's debt ceiling.

Though the shift would have been done in increments over many years, health policy analysts noted that it would have disproportionately hurt blue collar workers -- who can't afford to spend additional time in their late years in the work force -- without saving much money: Medicare spending is far heavier during life's later years.

When the president submitted his own proposal to the super committee, he scrapped the idea of raising Medicare's eligibility age. Congressional Democrats have followed suit.

In addition to scrapping that specific policy provision, sources familiar with the Democratic proposal also argue that the party has minimized the amount of damage it is inflicting on the entitlement program. All cuts, said one source, were limited to those that Obama and Boehner had discussed and informally agreed to in their talks; though it should be noted, no specifics were offered as to what those cuts actually are.

The ratio of revenue raisers to spending cuts included in the Democratic Party's presentation is also something that lawmakers are hoping will go over well with the base. However, it's a bit unfair to call the presentation a 1:1 offer. When considering any proposal, the $1 trillion in discretionary spending cuts already passed into law as part of the debt ceiling deal must be considered -- meaning Democrats would produce a roughly 1.5 to 2.5 revenues-to-cuts ratio.

It's also important to consider the presentation as the first salvo in what promises to be high-stakes negotiations. Medicare age eligibility may be off the table for the time being. But the president's willingness to embrace the idea in the past suggests that it will be a chip to be traded in for Republican votes in the future. The committee must present a plan around Thanksgiving. A vote is scheduled for the end of December.

A Democrat aide cautioned that Baucus-led presentation was not a formal proposal and that it was backed by only a "majority of Democrats."

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