Proposal would increase Medicare premiums

Feb. 15, 2008 at 7:56 PM
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WASHINGTON, Feb. 15 (UPI) -- Wealthy Medicare beneficiaries could be in store for higher prescription drug premiums under a White House proposal, a report said Friday.

The Hill reported that by boosting premiums for higher-income beneficiaries enrolled in the Medicare prescription drug benefit, taxpayer spending on the program could be cut by $3.2 billion over five years.

The Bush administration proposal calls for reduced subsidies for single people with incomes greater than $82,000 and married couples with incomes greater than $164,000, the newspaper reported.

Health and Human Services Secretary Mike Leavitt said if enacted the proposal would help preserve Medicare.

"Without smart changes now, Medicare can consume a growing and sustainable share of the federal budget," Leavitt said. "Within 35 years, Medicare would eat up every bit of our federal budget as we now know it," he added.

Democrats, however, immediately criticized the proposal. Rep. John Dingell, D-Mich., the chairman of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, said the proposal would unfairly shift more costs to seniors.

"This proposal shows us exactly where Republicans stand when it comes to helping seniors and people with disabilities," Dingell was quoted as saying. "The president's idea for 'improving' the program is to stick the beneficiaries with more of the bill."

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