Lieberman: Increase Medicare Eligibility Age

Friday, 10 Jun 2011 09:57 AM

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Independent Sen. Joe Lieberman is proposing fixing Medicare by gradually raising the age of eligibility in two-month increments until it hits 67 in 2025 and by having higher-income Americans pay more. Lieberman laid out his prescription for fixing the ailing program in an Op-Ed in The Washington Post.

lieberman, medicare“Instead of beginning nonpartisan discussions to fix Medicare, the health insurance program that millions of seniors depend on and that contributes enormously to our long-term debt, Congress has turned the Medicare funding crisis into another excuse for partisan pugilism,” Lieberman wrote. “It is enough to make you want to become an independent.”

Lieberman noted that both Democrats and Republicans are right on the issue. Democrats, he said, are right that Americans want to keep Medicare as a government-run program and Republicans are correct that the current Medicare benefit structure is unaffordable.

“Medicare cannot be fixed without both more revenue and significant changes in its premium and benefit structure. The first is reflexively opposed by Republicans, and the second is reflexively opposed by Democrats — yet both sides are well aware of the demographic and economic realities facing the program. Bottom line, Medicare is hurtling toward its demise — our government is approaching a cataclysmic fiscal tipping point — while Washington is busy posturing for the next election.”

Lieberman wrote that he was drafting legislation that will preserve Medicare without privatization that will save at least $200 billion in spending over the next 10 years and extend the solvency of the program by 20 years.

Lieberman proposed a five-point fix for the program that includes:

--Raising the Medicare eligibility age every year starting in 2014 by two months until it reaches 67 in 2025.

--Reforming the complex Medicare benefit structure by implementing a single, combined Part A and Part B deductible, requiring a co-pay on all Medicare services and adding a maximum out-of-pocket benefit.

--Reforming the premium structure by raising the premiums for all new enrollees in Part B (doctor’s services) and Part D (prescriptions) starting in 2014 to 35 percent of program costs.

--Reforming how the Medigap policies work.

--Raising more revenue by having higher-income Americans pay an additional 1 percent of every dollar they earn over $250,000.

“I offer these ideas as a starting point for discussion to show we can extend the solvency of Medicare and reduce our national deficit and debt,” the Connecticut Independent concluded.

“The truth is that we cannot save Medicare as we know it. We can save Medicare only if we change it. I realize that each of the reforms is bound to make some people unhappy and that supporting such legislation entails political risk. But unless members of Congress are willing to take risks together, the big losers will be our great country and the people who elected us to lead it.”

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