salon.com — Republicans have essentially no leverage in the current “cliff” negotiations. The policy consequences of doing nothing are a lot worse for them than for Obama and the Democrats. So Obama is in position to demand concessions that the GOP wouldn’t ordinarily give up – like, for instance, an increase in tax rates, something no Republican in Congress has voted for in 22 years. Faced with this imbalance, though, Republicans have lately been making noise about forcing another confrontation over the debt ceiling, which we’re due to hit a little over a month into the new year. This is where things get complicated. What we know is that Obama’s official position is that any attempt by the GOP to replicate the brinkmanship of the summer of 2011 is a non-starter. The problem is that “Democrats have no consensus plan to execute if the debt ceiling isn’t increased before the end of the year.”.
thedailybeast.com — Sunday afternoon I received an email from Howard Dean. Not a personal one, but nevertheless seeing his name there made me look twice, because I never get emails of any kind from Howard Dean. This one warned me ominously about the looming cuts to Medicare, and while the Deanian digit of outrage was pointed at the Republicans, the email also noted that my voice was needed to ensure that the Democrats stood united against the assault. Translated, this means that liberals are terrified that the White House is about to agree to increase the Medicare eligibility age to 67. I think the White House ought to know that by all existing evidence, if it agrees to such a deal, Barack Obama will lose liberal support far more quickly, more despondently, and more, if I may put it this way, ferociously and furiously than he ever lost it over the public option.
prospect.org — Raising the eligibility age saves very little money, on the order of a few billion dollars a year. That's because the 65 and 66-year-olds will have to get insurance somewhere, and many of them are going to get it with the help of the federal government, either through Medicaid or through the insurance exchanges, where they'll be eligible for subsidies. However, since many Republican-run states are refusing to expand Medicaid in accordance with the Affordable Care Act, lots of seniors who live in those states will just end up uninsured. What we'd be doing is taking people off Medicare, the most efficient and inexpensive option for them to have insurance, and putting them into the individual market, which works less well and costs more. When we start talking about this in more detail, that's what Republicans should really be forced to address.
washingtonpost.com — Raising the eligibility age for Medicare sounds like a fiscal no-brainer. After all, the Social Security retirement age is rising to 67. It would seem sensible for Medicare to have the same rule. After all, life expectancy is growing. Today, the average 65-year-old can expect to live another 20 years — about five years longer than when Medicare started. After all, federal health-care spending is on an unsustainable course. Something’s got to give. Amid the entitlement mumbo jumbo, raising the eligibility age is attractive to politicians casting about for savings because it is tangible. Here’s the wrinkle: This no-brainer turns out to be exceedingly complicated. The savings aren’t as big as you might imagine, because costs to other government health programs would rise as a result. Meanwhile, the move could have an array of problematic effects, from leaving seniors uninsured to raising premium costs for many others.
economix.blogs.nytimes.com — A common phrase in the current debate over the so-called fiscal cliff is “Medicare needs to be restructured.” The term serves as code for policies unlikely to be appealing to voters, a term that can mean everything and, thus, nothing. The question is what problem restructuring is to solve in traditional Medicare, which remains one of the most popular health insurance programs in this country. People who use this vague term should always be challenged to explain exactly why and how Medicare should be changed.
robertreich.org — The “fiscal cliff” is a metaphor for a government that no longer responds to the biggest challenges we face because it’s paralyzed by intransigent Republicans, obsessed by the federal budget deficit, and overwhelmed by big money from corporations, Wall Street, and billionaires. If we had a functional government America would address three “cliffs” posing far larger dangers to us than the fiscal one.
slate.com — When economists and policymakers worry about the long-term fiscal crisis, what they’re mostly worried about is Medicare. That’s why a persistent idea during this fiscal cliff season is raising the Medicare eligibility age from 65 to 67. It’s an idea that appears superficially to have many virtues. Bringing the Medicare retirement age into line with the Social Security retirement age seems logical. The change is simple to describe to journalists and the public. And agreeing to reduce spending by keeping the program the same but limiting eligibility for it allows Democrats and Republicans to come together without resolving their fundamental disagreement over what Medicare should look like. As far as big picture entitlement reform goes, in other words, it’s relatively simple, straightforward, and easy to accomplish. Unfortunately it’s also a terrible idea that cloaks a staggering giveaway to hospitals, doctors, and other health care providers.
huffingtonpost.com — As both our national debt and health care costs continue to swell, America's CEOs and other "influentials" have targeted Medicare as a key culprit and insist that Congress cut Medicare spending in the current deficit discussions. In truth, we do not have a "Medicare problem" in this country; we have a big problem with rising health care costs. To rein in escalating deficits over the long-term, Congress must address the lack of competition in the health care marketplace, which is driving up overall health care costs, including Medicare's. If we are to control health care spending, we need to restructure the private health care market to bring down prices. Cutting Medicare spending, without addressing this systemic issue, will simply shift the burden of rising health care costs to vulnerable older adults and people with disabilities. It is not a long-term solution for either Medicare or the deficit.
washingtonmonthly.com — Why the ACA can’t kick in soon enough, part the infinite: the Huffington Post is reporting that, according to a new policy that will take effect in January, Walmart will begin denying health insurance to new employees who work less than 30 hours a week. It will also reserve the right to cut health benefits for certain groups of current employees who work less than 30 hours. Walmart workers, like many retail employees, often have shifts and hours that vary from week to week, according to seasonal business cycles, so even workers who are currently working 30 hours or more could be affected. Let’s not forget that Walmart is the nation’s largest private employer, so this change is hugely important. And it’s important not only in itself, but in the spillover effect it could have on the employment policies of comparable retailers.
prospect.org — As The Washington Post’s Ezra Klein declared shortly after voters re-elected President Barack Obama, one of the major winners last week was health-care reform. With Democrats holding on to the Senate and the White House, Republicans will be unable to repeal the law before all of its provisions go into effect in 2014—after which, the theory goes, the public will come to accept that government has the responsibility to ensure health care is available for all. This is the end of a long battle for progressives: Health care has been the major missing piece of our welfare state for nearly a century, and for decades making it part of our system of social insurance has been a primary goal of politicians, think tanks, and activists. With this piece of the progressive puzzle in place, the natural question to ask is, What’s next for the welfare state?