Republicans debate Medicare changes

March 7, 2013 at 2:01 PM
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WASHINGTON, March 7 (UPI) -- Republicans in Congress are debating whether and how much to raise the age at which changes in the U.S. Medicare system would kick in.

The budget proposed last year by Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., head of the House Budget Committee would have left the healthcare plan unchanged for everyone 55 or older. Those under that age would receive vouchers when they reach 65 instead of coverage for healthcare expenses.

Some Republicans say that age will have to be raised if they are to fulfill their promise to balance the federal budget in a decade, The Hill reported.

"Work in progress," Rep. Tom Price, R-Ga., vice chairman of the House Budget Committee, said Wednesday.

The Los Angeles Times reported that Ryan himself wants to raise the cutoff age to 56 and is trying to convince moderate Republicans the shift is necessary. But some in his party say raising the age will look like Republicans cannot be trusted.

"With some members it is of concern in that they've been out selling 55 and older ... and this is going back on their promise," Rep. Mike Simpson, R-Idaho, said.

Simpson himself believes the public can be convinced of 56 as a starting point just as easily as 55. Some of his colleagues argue that 59 should be the age.

Whatever Ryan proposes when his budget is released next week is unlikely to pass muster in the Senate, where Democrats hold a slim majority. But it will form a starting point for negotiations between the two houses and the Obama administration.

Democrats last year completely rejected the plan to change Medicare to a voucher system.

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