WASHINGTON -

Americans are living longer, and Republicans want to raise the Medicare eligibility age as part of any deal to reduce the government's huge deficits.

But what sounds like a prudent sacrifice for an aging society that must watch its budget could have some surprising consequences, including higher premiums for people on Medicare.

Unlike tax hikes, which spawn hard partisan divisions, increasing the Medicare age could help ease a budget compromise because President Barack Obama has previously been willing to consider it.

The idea gained new life when Republicans won the House in 2010, and Budget Chairman Paul Ryan of Wisconsin embraced it. Obama indicated he was open to it during budget talks with Republicans in 2011. But the president quickly retreated, and now says he's not willing to consider cutting Medicare unless Congress agrees to raise taxes on the wealthy.