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Today in ‘fiscal cliff': Is raising the Medicare eligibility age off the table?

The stalemate in the latest round of "fiscal cliff" talks still hasn't been broken. But one thing has started to become clearer: Democrats are hardening their position against an increase in the Medicare eligibility age. 

Alex Wong

Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) went so far as to say that the White House has taken the age hike for Medicare off the table altogether. It's "no longer one of the items being considered by the White House" in negotiations with top Republicans on avoiding the so-called fiscal cliff, he said, according to the Associated Press. However, Durbin also said he didn't get the news directly from the president or the White House, leaving it less certain what the state of play really is right now.

In the meantime, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi has laid out the case against an age hike in a USA Today editorial: “It betrays the bedrock promise of Medicare: that Americans who work hard and take responsibility all their lives can know dignity in their later years." Pelosi, however, doesn't detail what Democrats would do instead to save money, other than finding other ways to "reduce health expenditures and build on our work in the Affordable Care Act to slow the growth of health costs."  

Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) similarly told my colleague Greg Sargent that "the overwhelming sense was that this would be absolutely unacceptable...I can’t imagine [the president] is seriously considering it." And in his remarks Thursday, Boehner also suggested that the bigger hang-up right now is on entitlements than tax increases, which he indirectly implied were in the mix. "Washington has a spending problem that cannot be fixed by tax increases alone," he said on the floor Thursday, as The New York Times's Jonathan Weisman notes.

Thursday's top 5 fiscal cliff reads:

1) The White House and nonprofits are battling over the future of charitable deductions: "But the White House is also looking to limit the charitable deduction for high-income earners, and that has prompted frustration and resistance, with leaders of major nonprofit organizations, such as the United Way, the American Red Cross and Lutheran Services of America, closing ranks in opposing any change to the deduction." The Washington Post

2) Conservative activists really don't want the GOP to compromise with Dems: "The leaders of dozens of major conservative organizations joined together Thursday to jointly pen an open letter to congressional Republicans, warning them not to cave to Democratic demands to raise tax rates on the wealthy in a deal to avert the year-end “fiscal cliff” or otherwise compromise on leading conservative issues with Democrats. The Washington Post

3) But ordinary Republican voters overwhelmingly want compromise for the first time: "Thursday’s NBC/WSJ News poll finds a major shift among Republicans on whether or not the party should make concessions to Democrats in order to avoid the “fiscal cliff.”  In April, 38 percent of Republicans favored compromise between the two parties on the budget. Now, 59 percent do — the first majority of Republicans to support compromise in NBC/WSJ polling on the issue." The Washington Post

4) No, the Fed can't save us from the fiscal cliff, but its new targeting policy could provide a bit more of a cushion: "What’s different now?  The new approach creates automatic adjustment by markets.  Now when a shock hits the economy, we change our forecast and reset expectations accordingly; we don’t need a confirming change in guidance from the Fed.  Chairman Bernanke emphasized this point in today’s press conference." Economonitor

5) There's still a big divide between New York and D.C. on the fiscal cliff: "Investors are already betting that lawmakers will do enough to avoid heading over the so-called fiscal cliff. Fears that the divide separating Republicans and Democrats might be too great to bridge helped send markets down in the week after the election. More recently, share prices have climbed steadily, rising for most of the last three weeks to reach their highest point since late October." The New York Times



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Suzy Khimm · December 13, 2012

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