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Means test for Medicare drug plan sought

Oct. 5, 2007 at 11:02 AM   |   Comments

WASHINGTON, Oct. 5 (UPI) -- The Bush administration is backing a proposal to charge upper-income seniors more for using Medicare's prescription drug benefit, officials said.

U.S. Sen. John Ensign, R-Nev., is working with the administration to attach a "means testing" provision to upcoming legislation, The Washington Post reported Friday.

An administration official said the provision would save the government billions of dollars by raising fees on beneficiaries with annual incomes of more than $80,000 -- even though similar efforts were turned away.

"You say it saves money and these people can afford it, but it also eats away at the incomes of seniors," John Rother, policy director for senior lobbying giant AARP, told the Post.

The plan was part of Bush's 2008 budget but died earlier this year without much fanfare.

"Working couples with incomes over $160,000 should not be subsidized by retired firefighters or schoolteachers," Ensign said. "They should pay more of their share."

The proposal enjoys support from both parties in both chambers.

"Means testing is going to be a necessary part of all our entitlement programs," said U.S. Rep. Jim Cooper, D- Tenn., who is seeking a new commission to tackle the pending crisis in entitlement programs. "We simply cannot afford the promises we've made."

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