Medicare Eligibility Age on the Table?

In Washington, when a rumor just won’t die, it begins to look like strategy. And one rumor that has Washington riveted is the potential for a deal on the fiscal shenanigans needed to stave off sequester that would raise the eligibility age for Medicare.

Reader c u n d gulag points us to the latest warning, from none other than the esteemed Nobel laureate Paul Krugman, who blogs it under the headline, “I Hope This Isn’t True.”

Earlier this week, Brother Kilgore wrote of invective aimed at New York magazine’s Jonathan Chait for his suggestion that, despite the fact that a raise in eligibility age would cost the federal government billions and billions more than if the current eligibility age of 65 were maintained, it might be worth trading away to the Republicans in order to avoid the fiscal insanity that is sequester. (No, I won’t call it that thing that rhymes with “riff”.)

But the added cost is not the trigger for the invective; that comes from this: Raise the eligibility age and PEOPLE WILL DIE.

No, that’s not an exaggeration, and the failure of certain wonks to take that into consideration speaks to their isolation from everyday people, even the everyday people who provide services to them, such as grocery-store clerks, waitresses, and construction workers in right-to-work states. These are people who cannot wait until they’re 67 for the full complement of Medicare benefits. Many of them are people who will wind up paying the individual mandate penalty in Obamacare, because even if purchased through an exchange, the monthly premium will be more than they can afford.

Not to mention the added health risks of doing physical labor into one’s golden years. Many of these people are lucky to make it to 65. As my AlterNet colleague Lynn Parramore notes, “longevity gains have gone mostly to high earners.” More from Parramore:

Life expectancy among the less educated and those with lower incomes has actually dropped. New research shows that between 1990 and 2008, white women lacking a high school diploma lost a shocking five years of life, while their male peers lost three years.

But if everyone in your family is college-educated and has a good job with adequate health insurance, why would it even cross your mind that not everybody does?

Here’s my hope: that this rumor is being floated in order to create enormous pushback from the left that would give Obama cover for rejecting it. Time to push.