Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Medicare and a Partial Solution

I watched Hardball the other evening.  Matthews played a segment where a woman in Pennsylvania challenged her Congressman who had voted for the Ryan budget over that vote.  Her complaint ... that her adult children would not get the same Medicare that she currently used and enjoyed.  Matthews relished the way the inept Congressman squirmed.

But lets be two things:  honest and clear.  Neither side of the aisle can or will leave Medicare intact as the sacred cow.  The national health care plan makes deep cuts in Medicare.  Fraud and waste will not make up for billions cut from the Medicare budget.  There is fraud and waste, getting rid of fraud and waste is good, but the cost of getting rid of fraud and waste is not zero. So how can we make a dent in Medicare?

The first item of cost is eligibility.  People on disability have to wait 24 months from their first Social Security check to get Medicare.  These are sick and hurting people.  They have been out of work for 30 months before Medicare kicks in.  Compare that to people that turn 65 ... instant Medicare eligibility.  Current full retirement age is 66.  Medicare should get permanently attached to full retirement age.  That would delay eligibility for a year currently and two full years by 2027 when people born in 1960 or later reach full retirement age.

Premiums should also get further indexed to ability to pay.  Currently HHS charges people $555.40 for part A and part B if they have less than 30 quarters of coverage.  Most people either have 40 quarters or are/were married to someone that has 40 quarters of coverage.  For them, part A is free and part B is $96.40 per month.  High income households do pay a little more.

Part A costs $461 alone for people with less than 30 quarters of coverage and $254 for people with 30 to 30 quarters of coverage.  For high wage earners, those continuing to have high income after full retirement age, they should start to pick up part of the part A premium.

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