People in Washington are talking about raising Medicare costs for some beneficiaries. That's the wrong way to address our budget deficit. Instead we should allow Medicare to use its marketplace clout to negotiate better prices or rebates for prescription drugs. That would produce significant savings.
Proposals to raise seniors' costs, including means-testing and raising the eligibility age for Medicare, miss the mark. Denying Medicare benefits to seniors until they reach age 67 would shift costs to seniors, states and employers without reducing the overall cost of health care by one penny.
While the Republicans want to take away benefits from folks on Medicare, we ought to be doing things that strengthen the program and ensure it's there for future generations.
Seniors shouldn't be paying more while the big pharmaceutical companies run roughshod over retirees who need their products. Right now Medicare can't negotiate prices with the drug companies, and that makes no sense. While other countries are using their bargaining power to get good prices for their citizens, we in the U.S. are getting ripped off.
We're spending billions of dollars more than we should on prescription drugs. We should and could stop that. For example, enabling Medicare to claim the same drug rebates that now go to Medicaid would save $156 billion over 10 years.
With regard to the issue of means-testing, individuals who make more than $85,000 already pay a higher premium for Medicare physician coverage and drug plans. Expanded means-testing could push that threshold lower. How much further do the Republicans want to go? How much more do we want seniors to pay for their health care?
Half of the Medicare population lives on incomes of less than $22,000. Even with Medicare benefits, a typical senior still pays half of her own health costs -- an amount equal to more than 15 percent of total income.
Our goal shouldn't be to shift Medicare costs to seniors and make health care more expensive. It should be to make the wealthiest pay more, beginning with asking the richest 2 percent of Americans to pay their fair share in taxes and negotiating fair drug prices with the pharmaceutical companies. We can do both right now.