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Robert Frost and Medicare

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In “The Road Not Taken,” poet Robert Frost wrote, “I shall be telling this with a sigh somewhere ages and ages hence: Two roads diverged in a wood, and I — I took the one less traveled by, And that has made all the difference.”

Watching the political posturing about whether to extend the Bush tax cuts, many of us have begun to wonder if Congress can ever solve the real fiscal problem of the long-term cost of entitlement programs. It will be interesting to see if those who today believe the “rich” don’t need the tax relief will continue to hold that position on other fiscal issues.

Some — mainly Democrats — want the cuts to be preserved for those making less than $250,000 a year. Others argue many who make more than that are small-business owners, and the resultant “increase” will be a drag on business growth. Congress appears to have kicked the can on this decision down the road to the lame duck session or beyond.

Means testing is a concept that has long been a high-voltage wire none dare to touch. Yet one proposal calls for using that yardstick as a means to assure the solvency of Medicare. In his “Roadmap For America’s Future,” Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., ranking member of the Committee on Budget, suggests we do exactly that. He employs means testing as part of a broader voucher program. You can read more about that and other reforms he suggests at

Last weeks’ Republican “Pledge To America” doesn’t even to means testing. Though many believe that document is merely a preamble for the party’s platform in 2012, I suspect we will be hearing more about using financial status to determine eligibility for various entitlements. The Ryan plan has much to debate, but he is one who has taken the “road less traveled by.” Let’s hope there will be others, and that will make all the difference.

Check out more blog entries from David Saltzman.


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