A congressional panel negotiating U.S. spending cuts should raise the age when people become eligible for Medicare to 67 from 65, a group representing health-care chief executives said today.

The Washington-based Healthcare Leadership Council included the recommendation in four proposals it said would save $410 billion in a decade, along with having private health plans to cover additional Medicare recipients and make people earning more than $150,000 pay for the full cost of the program’s premiums. Pfizer Inc. (PFE) and Merck & Co., the two largest U.S. drugmakers by revenue, are members of the council.

Medicare, the U.S. health program for the elderly and disabled, currently covers 47 million people and spends $519 billion a year, according to the Menlo Park, California-based Kasier Family Foundation.

The program is a prime target for the debt panel, which is made up of six lawmakers from each party. Unless members reach a deal to cut $1.2 trillion from government spending, a mechanism will automatically trim 2 percent, or $123 billion, from the $6.1 trillion the U.S. is projected to spend on Medicare in coming years, according to the Congressional Budget Office.

Continue reading →