Seniors can enroll in Medicare at 65, but cannot collect their full Social Security benefit until they hit 66. (Those born in or after 1960 must wait until 67 to collect full benefits.)
Just how far to raise the Medicare eligibility age remains part of the debate. Bumping it up to 68 would save nearly $53 billion, according to Heritage.
Cost cutting: The Obama administration believes billions can be saved by making Medicare more efficient. Its Affordable Care Act contains $716 billion in cuts to insurance companies participating in the Medicare Advantage program, hospitals, skilled nursing facilities and other providers. The president's health care reform law also created an independent board charged with keeping costs under control if they exceed a preset cap.
"We propose to get the government much smarter in how it purchases medicine," Geithner said Sunday.
Some experts say even more can be done to shave costs. Cutting the amount of Medicare waste in half could save roughly $400 billion over a decade, said David Kendall, senior fellow for health and fiscal policy at Third Way, a centerist group.
"We should exhaust all possibility of eliminating waste before we cut benefits," he said.
How can this be done? Third Way promotes moving away from traditional fee-for-service and rewarding doctors for monitoring patients' health and preventing hospitalizations. This would include giving patients better access to their doctors through email or telephone to avoid needless office visits or emergency room trips.
Also, doctors' care should come with a 30-day warranty, designed to prevent mistakes and re-admittance to hospitals or nursing homes. Bundling payments to specialists treating a patient's illness would also lead to more coordination among doctors and hospitals and save money.
Third Way also supports giving doctors the opportunity to talk to patients about end-of-life care, a controversial idea in Obama's original health reform proposal that Republicans called "death panels." These discussions could also provide savings by making sure all those treating the patients know their wishes.
Another way to save money is to allow the federal government to negotiate drug costs. That could save less than $30 billion, said Josh Bivens of the Economic Policy Institute, a left-leaning organization.