Sen. Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., met with Oregon seniors Friday and called on Congress and President Obama to abandon any proposals that raise the eligibility age of Medicare.

Merkley was joined by seniors who shared their stories about the turmoil of dealing with health problems prior to enrolling in Medicare and how proposals to raise the eligibility age could be a death sentence.

“Across Oregon, at town hall after town hall, I hear stories like what we heard today -- stories from seniors who are just trying to hang on to get to age 65 and access Medicare,” said Merkley.

“And now, some folks in Washington are proposing raising the Medicare age from 65 to 67 or possibly higher. This is unacceptable. This hurts our seniors. For some seniors, raising the Medicare age would be a death sentence.”

A proposal to raise the age of Medicare eligibility from 65 to 67 was discussed during the recent fiscal cliff debate and already outside groups and members of Congress are making similar proposals.

In addition to the health risks associated with raising the Medicare eligibility age for uninsured seniors, Merkley said, it would also increase out-of-pocket medical costs for many seniors, placing them at a significant financial risk.

“Before I got onto Medicare, I was without health insurance for three years and couldn’t afford to get the medication I needed,” said current Medicare beneficiary Ann Sorlie. “I was just hanging on to reach 65, and I can’t imagine where I would be today if I had to wait more years to get the care I needed.”