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Transition 2012

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Tracking the Issues: Romney, Tie Medicare to Life Expectancy

by Newsteam Staff
February 27, 2012

Kathleen Sebelius, Secretary of Health and Human Services, in Washington March 16, 2011. (Joshua Roberts/Courtesy Reuters)


Entitlements, such as Medicare and Social Security, are a growing portion of the U.S. long-term debt. Many analysts says unless the entitlements system is reformed the national debt will become unsustainable. In a speech to the Detroit Economic Club, GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney proposed raising the eligibility age for Medicare (AP) and eventually tying the eligible age to life expectancy. “With these commonsense changes, we will have fixed our balance sheet,” Romney said.

At a GOP debate last week, Rick Santorum said it was necessary to deal with Medicare now, “not 10 years from now…because our country is facing fiscal bankruptcy.” Ron Paul, who was a practicing physician for many years, has criticized federal involvement in health care. “Probably the worst thing that we ever did was make medical care the responsibility of the government,” he said. If elected president, Paul said he would not immediately cut health care benefits, especially for the elderly and children, but rather transition out of the current system by allowing people to set up personal medical savings accounts.

Newt Gingrich, who has been harshly critical of Medicare, last December praised a bipartisan Medicare premium support plan by Orego0n Democratic Sen. Ron Wyden and GOP Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan. The plan would provide seniors with pre-determined premium support vouchers to purchase benefits through an exchange of private plans or the existing fee-for-service program.

President Obama’s 2013 fiscal budget, meanwhile, would cut payments to Medicare providers (TheHill) by $267 billion over the next decade.

To see more about the candidates’ positions check out CFR’s Issue Tracker on the Economy.

Suggested Other Reading:

CFR’s Michael Hodin says the path to fiscal sustainability for Medicare lies in funding research programs and healthy aging initiatives that reduce the government outlays needed to care for an aging population.

Brookings Institution’s Ron Haskins writes that the next president must work with Congress to solve the United States’ deficit crisis by reducing spending, especially on Medicare, and increasing taxes.

The Heritage Foundation’s Robert Moffit argues that overhauling Medicare will require fixing the current system and moving to a premium-support system.

–Contributing Editor Liriel Higa

1 Comment

  • Posted by Carly EngageAmerica

    A Congressional Budget Office (CBO) report ( examining the effects of gradually raising the eligibility ages for Medicare and Social Security is very timely. The CBO analysis finds that doing so would reduce federal spending on program benefits and encourage people to work longer. This in turn would grow the labor force and total economic output.

    The CBO estimates the effects of raising Social Security’s early eligibility age (EEA) from 62 to 64 and normal retirement age (NRA) from 67 to 70. The idea of raising the EEA and NRA is not new, and it claims broader support than other reforms (