This week: Talking about the Medicare age

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Liberal members warned the White House en masse this week against offering a two-year increase in the Medicare eligibility to Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio). They argued the move would hurt vulnerable seniors and save little money for the government.

Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) told reporters Thursday that he heard an increase in the eligibility age was off the table in the talks, but President Obama has not publicly ruled it out.

Liberal Democrats have also lobbied hard against cuts to Medicaid, prompting the Health and Human Services Department to withdraw its support for a proposal to cut Medicaid spending — the so-called “blended rate.”

With Republicans demanding entitlement reforms as the price for higher tax revenues, Democrats could offer further means testing in Medicare as a bargaining chip. It’s an idea that Democrats in Congress have increasingly embraced.

President Obama proposed raising Medicare premiums for wealthy seniors in his budget and during the 2011 debt-ceiling negotiations. The Congressional Budget Office estimated that his budget measure — raising Part B and D costs by 15 percent for higher-income seniors starting in 2017 — would raise $30 billion a year.

Also left on the agenda is a doc fix, which is expected to be folded into a final deal and prevent doctors from seeing a 27 percent cut to their Medicare reimbursements.

The schedule is quiet this week as the negotiations continue.

On Monday, the Alliance for Health Reform will hold a briefing on raising Medicare's eligibility age.

On Thursday, the Senate Judiciary Committee will hold a business meeting to consider the Nursing Home Resident Pain Relief Act (S. 1560). The bill would enhance access to controlled substances of residents of institutional long-term care facilities, and is sponsored by Sen. Herb Kohl (D-Wis.).

Also on Thursday, the Senate Committee on Banking, House and Urban Affairs will hold a hearing on recovery from Hurricane Sandy. Discussion will almost certainly touch on damage to the tri-state area's health infrastructure and health concerns posed by standing water, mold and other storm effects.