"I do a lot of town halls,” Merkley told the paper.
“I can’t tell you how many times someone will come up to me and say, ‘Here’s the thing. I’m 61, and I have these major health problems. I don’t have insurance. I’m praying I make it to 65.’ The idea that we’re going to take all these folks with diseases setting in as they get older, and move them two years later? Absolutely unacceptable."
Liberal House members have been sending similar signals as Obama and Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) continue to exchange offers on avoiding the so-called "fiscal cliff."
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) published an op-ed piece Tuesday that slammed raising the Medicare age as cruel and ineffective. And Reps. Raul Grijalva (D-Ariz.) and Keith Ellison (D-Minn.), who lead the Congressional Progressive Caucus, said the same in a statement Wednesday.
"Raising the Medicare eligibility age to 67 would create a new healthcare doughnut hole," the lawmakers said. "This would leave thousands of seniors with no healthcare coverage and jeopardize the future of affordable healthcare for all Americans."
The Grijalva-Ellison statement did not mention Obama, who told ABC News on Tuesday that he has concerns about raising the Medicare age but is not ruling the idea out.
"When you look at the evidence, it's not clear that [raising the Medicare age] actually saves a lot of money," Obama said.
"But what I've said is 'Let's look at every avenue because what is true is we need to strengthen Social Security, we need to strengthen Medicare for future generations.' The current path is not sustainable because we've got an aging population and healthcare costs are shooting up so quickly."
Merkley had a swift response to Obama's comments. "If this is a trial balloon, it’s a lead balloon," he said.
A Center for American Progress report out Tuesday estimated that raising the Medicare age to 67 could leave as many as 435,000 seniors uninsured. CAP also argued that the move would increase premiums for Medicare beneficiaries.
Proponents of the idea say raising the Medicare age is necessary given rising life expectancy in the United States.
Original article on The Hill