U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, fielded questions about efforts to reform health care and revive the economy during a town hall meeting today in DeWitt. (FILE PHOTO)

U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, said Wednesday he doesn’t think senior citizens will die sooner as a result of proposed Medicare cuts, but he defended a colleague’s right to make the statement.

Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., angered Democrats on Tuesday when he said proposed Medicare cuts in the health-care reform package would lead to quicker deaths.

“You’re going to die sooner,” Coburn said Tuesday.

Grassley told reporters on a conference call today that he didn’t agree with that.

“I don’t think so, but I think it’s OK for him to make that statement because on the other side of the aisle, people are making statements” that are inaccurate.

He noted Democrats have claimed that 14,000 people a day are losing their health insurance, which he called “ridiculous.”

The spectre of death has been raised intermittently in the health-care debate.

U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson, D-Fla., angered Republicans a few weeks ago when he said the GOP health-care plan is for people to “die quickly.”

And, over the summer, the words “death panels” became intertwined with the issue, with Grassley being accused of adding fuel to the fire.

Despite the occasional bursts of graveyard discourse, however, Grassley said Wednesday it isn’t getting in the way of a productive debate.

“There are some statements that are extreme that are being made, and it’s probably part of the environment,” he said. But he added there were more than seven hours of discussion Tuesday, and there would be more throughout the month.

“It was pretty high-caliber debate as far as I’m concerned. There’s just extensive debate on this all the time.” He said Coburn’s comments were “pretty insignificant” in light of the overall discussion.