The question of whether wealthy seniors ought to pay more for Medicare coverage in an effort to reduce the deficit has received President Obama‘s public approval. “I’ve said that means-testing on Medicare, meaning people like myself…You can envision a situation where, for somebody in my position, me having to pay a little bit more on premiums or co-pays or things like that would be appropriate,” said Obama in a recent press conference.
To a certain degree, means-testing is already in place for Medicare premiums and prescription drugs for individuals earning over $85,000 and couples earning over $170,000, and Obama stressed that he would do everything possible to ensure that current beneficiaries are not affected. While he is open to small increases in premiums for these high-income seniors, Obama does not support increases for seniors falling below these thresholds.
The senior lobby AARP immediately attacked Obama’s statement. Joyce Rogers, the group’s senior vice president, said, “Medicare is not a welfare program. Seniors pay into Medicare their entire working lives based on the promise that they’ll have secure health coverage when they retire.” She went on to add that wealthy seniors have contributed more throughout their work lives and pay higher taxes in retirement to support Medicare. She called on the administration to work toward lowering health-care costs throughout the system as a means to improve the program’s viability.
Obama’s remarks regarding means-testing support his desire to protect the current structure of Medicare, as opposed to making it a voucher program, as Republicans have suggested. “I think it is important for [Social Security and Medicare] to remain as social insurance programs that give people some certainty and reliability in their golden years. But it turns out that making some modest modifications in those entitlements can save you trillions of dollars. And it’s not necessary to completely revamp the program.”