Rep. Paul Ryan’s (R-WI) budget would find savings in the Medicare program by shifting a greater share of its costs to beneficiaries, who would receive a fixed "premium support" credit to go out and purchase health care in an exchange of private health care plans.[...]
Ryan’s isn’t the only proposal to lower the growth in Medicare spending that’s asking seniors to pay more, and that’s precisely what has health care advocates so concerned. They point out that nearly “half of Medicare recipients have incomes at or below 200 percent of poverty—$21,780 for an individual, $29,420 for a couple” and that many simply can’t afford to spend more on health insurance:Only 5 percent of Medicare beneficiaries have incomes of $80,000 or above, a figure that includes any income from a spouse. As for the 47 percent who are at or close to poverty, on average they are already spending nearly a fourth of their budgets on health care, according to an analysis of Medicare survey data by the Kaiser Family Foundation.[...]
Last week, the LA Times’ Noam Levey observed that saving costs by shifting them from the federal government to beneficiaries—once seen as taboo—has become all the rage in Washington, with pundits eagerly applauding the bold “leadership” and “tough decisions” of such proposals.
It's not bold or tough to make the beneficiaries of these programs pay more. What would be bold and tough would be to take on the big health care industry special interests to force cost reductions in things like pharmaceuticals and medical equipment and devices. There's cost savings to be had in the program itself in addressing the actual costs of care. Those are what policymakers should be looking for instead of just passing the buck on to America's seniors.