Deficit Plans Target Politically Protected Medicare Program
The politically-sacrosanct Medicare program is in the crosshairs of proposals to cut the deficit, prompting possible battles between seniors' advocates and debt-conscious lawmakers, Kaiser Health News reports. "The proposals, put forth by members of bipartisan deficit-reduction panels as well as Republican lawmakers, aim to help reduce the $1.3 trillion federal budget deficit as well as the mounting national debt. The plans would require beneficiaries to pay a larger share of Medicare, the federal health program for the elderly and disabled. One idea would fundamentally transform the 45-year-old program by giving seniors a set amount of money to buy their own Medicare coverage" (Carey, 11/29).
But the public isn't sure how to deal with Medicare and other entitlements, according to The Associated Press/CNBC poll: "To ease surging budget deficits, Americans prefer cutting federal services to raising taxes by nearly 2-1 in a new poll. Yet there is little consensus on specific, meaningful steps - and a wariness about touching two gargantuan programs, Social Security and Medicare. ... When it comes to culling savings from Social Security and Medicare, the public mood runs from ambivalence to distaste. The giant pension and health care programs for the elderly together comprise a third of the $3.5 trillion annual budget. People are about evenly divided on whether to reduce Medicare and Social Security benefits for the best-off seniors and whether to raise Social Security payroll taxes on the wealthiest Americans" (Fram and Agiesta, 11/30).