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Means-testing for Medicare: is this a GOP trick?

By Kelly Thomas - Posted on 10 May 2011

Weird that Boehner is coming out for means-testing for Medicare. He wants rich seniors to pay for their own health care, not get Medicare. A few questions:

-Doesn't this go against his argument that the rich should not be punished for success (the reason he says the Bush tax cuts should not expire?) This would be much more than a small tax-health care is expensive!!!

-How do you tell someone who paid into Medicare that they can't get the benefits? Would he like to give people a choice: "If you think you'll be rich someday, you don't need to pay into Medicare"?

-Is this just a way to increase profit for health insurance companies? Do they give so much to his campaign that other rich donors won't matter (cause they won't be happy!)

-Why is he openly supporting this when it won't really save that much money?

-Could this be his way of saying this is how they will compromise on Medicare if they get a few things?

-Is this just a GOP trick to distract from the unpopular aspects of the Ryan Medicare Plan? Or some back door way to end Medicare or turn it into Medicaid or more of a "welfare" system?

-Am I not understanding this correctly? Why wasn't there much media reaction to what seems like a "bombshell."

In his debt limit speech before a Wall Street crowd at the Economic Club of New York Monday evening, House Speaker John Boehner defended the GOP's Medicare plan in broad terms. But in particular, he defended one aspect of the proposal that's largely distinct from its two most controversial parts -- privatization, and deep benefit cuts. Specifically, Boehner endorsed the idea that Medicare -- whether private or public -- should be means tested.

In a Q&A session with one of the event's moderators -- Wall Street billionare-turned-deficit-scold Pete Peterson -- Boehner said wealthy beneficiaries should pay for their Medicare premiums.

"Pete, I love you to death, but I don't think the taxpayers ought to be paying your Medicare premium," Boehner said. "And under Paul Ryan's plan, what it says is, let's allow the American people to decide which health care plan fits their needs. And if you're middle-income, lower income, we are going to pay, just like we do today, for the cost of those premiums. But for people of means, there's no reason why we should subsidize Pete Peterson's premium. I'm sorry. He ought to pay the full cost of his premium to be in Medicare."

Under the plan in the GOP budget, beneficiaries would get means-tested subsidies to buy private insurance. But those subsidies would shrink relative to the cost of health care over time, and soon prove inadequate. Here Boehner is endorsing the concept of means testing, whether applied to Medicare as it exists right now, or privatized Medicare.

"For those who have substantial means, you can pay your own premium," he added.

That's still a controversial position particularly given the relatively modest savings. In essence it would mean requiring a wealthier subset of seniors to pay thousands-more dollars a year out of pocket, after they paid their whole lives into a program meant to significantly limit their costs. And to an extent, it cuts against the basic compact of entitlements -- that by treating wealthy and poor beneficiaries equally, the programs win much broader buy-in from the public, which protects them from the sorts of political attacks that make welfare programs so vulnerable.

But if the GOP moves off its privatization plan, it's easy to imagine them taking up means-testing as a "compromise" position.




I get the impression that no one has any good ideas to solve the medicare issue. Right now it seems like they are just throwing things against a wall and seeing what sticks.
I've said before I have no problem with means testing for SS benefits, and I feel the same way about long as the means limit is high.
Well, you Suzi, are smart and not getting money from special interest groups. So I get why YOU support it, but doesn't it seem fishy that John Boehner-lover of the rich-would "go there"? Maybe they really are feeling the heat of the Ryan budget and want to pretend they are willing to throw the rich under the bus (even if they really won't.) Maybe they realize their reputation that they are "in bed with the wealthy" is starting to stick.
Hoyer "cautiously" open to means-testing, saying the devil is in the details. Looking at the comments, many think the Dem's are being rolled on this one and should be very careful. The main thing will be: what does the GOP expect in return? Probably everything.

Waxman comes out against idea of means-testing.

Underscoring the fact that there's significant opposition to means-testing Medicare in the Democratic Party, Rep. Henry Waxman's office blasted out a statement this afternoon pushing back on House Speaker John Boehner's strong hint that this should be part of the debt limit negotiations.

"Under existing law, well-off seniors are already going to be paying more for their Medicare premiums," says Waxman, a California Democrat.

Further changes to Medicare at the expense of the wealthier or middle class seniors may push them to leave the program and end up with Medicare costing more because it would still have the sickest and poorest people left. In other words, this idea may undermine Medicare and cost beneficiaries more at the same time.

Medicare is a social insurance program where you get back for paying in, whether you are middle class, poor, or rich. If Mr. Boehner wants to have the wealthy contribute more to deficit reduction, he should look to the tax code.

Obviously the degree of Democratic opposition to means-testing plan will depend on the details. But there's clearly bipartisan support for some version of it.


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