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White House Rules Out Raising Age For Medicare

White House chief of staff Erskine Bowles predicted Friday that the eligibility age for Medicare would not be increased in any compromise budget-balancing measure signed by President Clinton.

Problems also arose for a proposal to charge higher premiums for the most affluent Medicare recipients. Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott, R-Miss., said administration demands that the system be run by the Internal Revenue Service was a “poison pill” because it would make the increased monthly payments look like a tax increase, a political anathema to most Republicans.

Bowles made his comment on raising the Medicare eligibility age during a private meeting with House Democrats, according to participants in the session who spoke on condition of anonymity. Speaking briefly to reporters later, he went almost as far when asked if the proposal was dead.

“From the president’s viewpoint, we don’t see how it makes any sense whatsoever to create a whole new class of uninsured people, so I would guess it is,” he said.

The Senate voted last month to gradually raise the age when people could begin receiving Medicare health insurance coverage from 65 to 67 as part of balanced-budget legislation being negotiated between Congress and the White House. The plan is opposed by Clinton and many Democrats, who say it would leave people 65 and 66 uninsured or forced to buy expensive private coverage.