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Top Dems Reject Coburn, Lieberman Plan To Raise Medicare Retirement Age

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In an official statement Pelosi said, "It is unfair to ask seniors to get less in benefits and wait longer to get onto Medicare - all while Republicans back tax breaks for Big Oil and corporations that ship American jobs overseas. Just like the Republican plan to end Medicare, this proposal is unacceptable, especially for struggling middle-class Americans."

At a Capitol press conference Tuesday, Reid called it a "bad idea." "I think we should not be cutting benefits now," he added.

The plan would cut Medicare spending in numerous ways, the most controversial of which is by increasing the retirement age to 67 -- contingent on the idea that the new health care law isn't repealed.

It would set a fixed annual deductible of $550, but cap out of pocket for beneficiaries at $7,500. It would accelerate Affordable Care Act provisions changing the way Medicare reimburses home health care providers, and further means-test the program for wealthy Americans -- this includes requiring high-income seniors to pay the full cost of their prescription drug benefit.

Republicans cite Lieberman's support to lure Democrats into supporting major cuts to Medicare.

"That shows that two senators on opposite sides of the aisle -- underscore the necessity of doing something serious about entitlements," said Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY). "We can put our heads in the sand...or we can come together as Senator Coburn and Senator Lieberman have with their particular proposal and try to do something about it."

But Lieberman's retiring in 2012. And Coburn's broad request to slash billions from Medicare in 10 years was the final straw in the bipartisan Gang of Six talks. This proposal, while more concrete, would supposedly cut $600 billion from the program over the next decade -- far more than Democrats were prepared to except in behind-the-scenes negotiations.

Still Coburn and Leiberman's cuts can be taken piecemeal. And while many of their ideas constitute benefit cuts -- the sort of cuts Democratic leaders claim to reject -- some of them could end up injected in the debate over raising the debt limit.

About The Author

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Brian Beutler is TPM's senior congressional reporter. Since 2009, he's led coverage of health care reform, Wall Street reform, taxes, the GOP budget, the government shutdown fight and the debt limit fight. He can be reached at brian@talkingpointsmemo.com

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