President Bush wants to charge wealthy American seniors more for their prescription drug coverage. In a plan that will be presented to congress for approval, the administration is proposing a premium increase for Medicare beneficiaries who earn more than $82,000/year as a single person or $164,000 for a married couple. The amount of the premium increase hasn’t been detailed yet, but the high income threshold means that the increase would only affect about 4.5% of all Medicare beneficiaries next year.
AARP has criticized the plan because it is essentially just a cost shifting maneuver, and does not provide solutions to actually cut overall health care costs. AARP has a point here – as a nation, we need to be focusing more on strategies for lowering the cost of health care for everyone, rather than just looking for ways to fund the health care machine with ever-increasing health insurance premiums and medical expenses.
But at the same time, I have no problem with charging higher Medicare premiums (including the health insurance and the prescription drug coverage) to seniors with significant income. It doesn’t make sense for two seniors to both pay the same price for their health insurance and medical care when one lives on $30,000/year and the other has portfolio income of $100,000/year. I wouldn’t advocate a huge price difference, but some sort of a sliding scale does make sense.
Here in Colorado, the Blue Ribbon Commission report that was finalized recently calls for extensive government subsidies for low-income families to enable them to buy health insurance. This essentially amounts to a sliding fee scale for health insurance for the non-Medicare crowd. Why not have the same thing with Medicare Part D?