It's a simple, reasonable idea that would recognize growing lifespans and trim federal outlays on a fast-growing part of the budget, Medicare. The idea? Raise the age of eligibility from 65 to 67. The trouble is, it will help one problem only a little while making another one significantly worse.
Barring 65- and 66-year-olds doesn't save Medicare much money because they are, as a group, the healthiest and least expensive part of the caseload. The real costs come later in life.
And denying them this federal entitlement doesn't mean denying them health coverage. They would be eligible to get insurance under ObamaCare -- but instead of being the youngest and cheapest beneficiaries, they would be the oldest and costliest.
So while taxpayers would save money, private health insurance customers would lose money by having to pay higher premiums. A study by the Kaiser Family Foundation says total spending on health care, public and private, would rise by a billion dollars just in 2014.
If we're going to reduce the cost of Medicare, as we need to do, we'll have to either reduce benefits to a broader group of retirees or encourage cost savings through individual choice and competition, as Paul Ryan proposes. In this realm, even more than others, there is no free lunch.