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Tuesday
Jun282011

Odd-Couple Coburn & Lieberman's Medicare Plan: Raise Medicare Age to 67

Creatas Images/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- Senators Joe Lieberman, I-Conn., and Tom Coburn, R-Okla., have introduced a bipartisan proposal to overhaul one of the most politically sensitive issues today: Medicare, which they estimate would cut $600 billion from the deficit over 10 years.

“We can't balance our budget without dealing with mandatory spending programs like Medicare,” Lieberman said Tuesday. “We can't save Medicare as we know it. We can only save Medicare if we change it.”

The proposal increases the eligibility age for Medicare, gradually rising to 67 from 65 starting in 2014, and would require seniors to pay more for their prescription drugs.  Most of the savings within the plan would come from an increase in premiums paid by seniors. The plan would require higher-income Americans to pay more for their share of Medicare Part A, B and D.  For Parts B and D, wealthier Americans will be asked to pay a hundred percent of premium cost.

“Our plan contains some strong medicine, but that's what it will take to keep Medicare alive,” Lieberman said. “We believe our plan administers the medicine in a fair way. It asks just about everyone to give something to help preserve Medicare, but it asks wealthier Americans to give more than those who have less.”

The odd-couple both pointed to areas where they each had to negotiate when pairing up for this proposal.  Lieberman, who once had wanted a one-percent cap on people making over $250,000 a year to be part of the proposal, gave that up. Coburn allowed wealthier beneficiaries to absorb more of the costs.

The battle over what changes to make to Medicare is a key debate in the ongoing debt negotiations, as health care for the elderly is one of the largest drivers in government spending. Democrats have said that they will not support any overhaul of Medicare that includes cutting benefits to seniors.

The two senators acknowledged themselves that there is just about something for everyone to dislike about their plan.  And they were right.

Democratic leaders from both the House and Senate made clear that this is something that they will not support.

“I thought it was a bad idea,” Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., told reporters Tuesday.  “We should not be cutting benefits now.”

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said that the proposal is “unacceptable.”

So what’s next for this proposal then? Senators Coburn and Lieberman said that they hope they can get a few moresenators to sign onto the plan, and hope that eventually it will be part of the ultimate agreement on the debt ceiling.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

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