A House Republican leader is praising Sen. Joe Lieberman for coming up with ideas for shoring up Medicare.

The trustees of the Medicare hospitalization trust fund say the trust fund will soon be empty unless policymakers act to increase revenue or lower program costs.

Lieberman, an independent from Connecticut who caucuses with the Democrats and is planning to retire in 2012, presented his proposal in an op-ed that ran Friday in the Washington Post.

“Democrats are right when they say the public wants to keep Medicare as a government-run program,” Lieberman says in the op-ed. “Republicans are right when they say that the current Medicare benefit structure is unaffordable.”

To fix Medicare, Lieberman recommends:

  • Raising the Medicare eligibility age to 67.
  • Streamlining the Medicare plan design, to create a single deductible, require a co-pay for all services, and add a maximum out-of-pocket benefits limit.
  • Increasing premiums for new enrollees in the Part B doctor’s services program and the Part D prescription drug plan program to cover 35% of program costs, up from 25% today.
  • Finding a way to deal with the problem that enrollees who have supplemental coverage now use about 25% more services than enrollees who have only traditional Medicare coverage.
  • Impose an extra 1% income tax on any dollar of annual income earned over $250,000.

“I realize that each of the reforms is bound to make some people unhappy and that supporting such legislation entails political risk,” Lieberman says. “But unless members of Congress are willing to take risks together, the big losers will be our great country and the people who elected us to lead it.”

Rep. Dave Camp, R-Mich., the chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee says Lieberman’s call for higher taxes is troubling.

But Lieberman “deserves credit for recognizing that Medicare is fast going broke and is in need of reform,” Camp says in a statement. “Unfortunately, congressional Democrats and the [Obama] administration have failed to recommend any solutions for dealing with the Medicare crisis.”

- Allison Bell

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