WASHINGTON, Oct. 5 - Sen. Bernie Sanders today blasted the American Hospital Association for lobbying Congress to cut Medicare benefits by increasing the eligibility age from 65 to 67.
The senator also criticized the hospital lobby for advocating a big jump - from 25 percent to 35 percent - in what Medicare patients pay for each visit to a doctor.
"I find it disgraceful that the entity representing our nation's hospitals would actively promote increasing the age of eligibility for Medicare," Sanders said in a letter to Richard Umbdenstock, president of the hospital association.
Sanders pointed out in the letter that Harvard researchers have attributed 45,000 deaths a year in America to the lack of health insurance. He also cited an AARP survey of Americans over 50 which showed that half delayed getting medical care during the recession.
"We must keep our promise to provide Medicare at age 65 to American workers who have contributed payroll taxes to Medicare throughout their working lives," Sanders wrote. "Raising Medicare's eligibility shifts costs to seniors, employers, and states, with the greatest burden placed on low-income seniors and those physically unable to work for two more years."
A Kaiser Family Foundation study estimated that changing the eligibility age in 2014 would increase state and private sector costs by $11.4 billion, twice as much as the federal savings of $5.7 billion. Most 65- and 66-year-olds would end up paying more out of pocket than they otherwise would have paid under Medicare, according to the study. Those under 65 also would see insurance premiums rise by an average of 3 percent, since they would be placed in a pool with an older, less healthy population.
"With close to 50 million Americans currently uninsured and millions more underinsured, it is indefensible that the AHA would promote changes in Medicare that would not only increase the number of uninsured seniors but would also make care more expensive for those still covered under the programs," Sanders said.