Sens. Tom Coburn and Joseph Lieberman to unveil plan for Medicare

Proposal by senators from Oklahoma and Connecticut calls for higher premiums and raising the Medicare eligibility age to 67.
BY CHRIS CASTEEL ccasteel@opubco.com Published: June 28, 2011
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Sens. Tom Coburn and Joseph Lieberman have developed a plan to slash Medicare spending by $600 billion over 10 years through premium increases, gradually raising the eligibility age and other changes.

The senators plan to unveil the proposal Tuesday as a way to address one of the biggest drivers in government spending — health care for the elderly.

Coburn, R-Muskogee, and Lieberman, an independent from Connecticut, will push their proposal at a time when deficit reduction is the dominant issue in Washington.

Besides being one of the most expensive government programs, Medicare is also one of the most politically sensitive. A House Republican proposal to end Medicare as an open-ended entitlement and replace it with subsidies to buy private insurance has drawn relentless fire from Democrats.

The Coburn-Lieberman plan would make far more modest changes and preserve Medicare as a government-run health care program. But it would require many seniors — particularly those with higher incomes — to pay more for the services.

Monthly premiums for all enrollees in the Medicare Part B — which covers visits to doctors — would rise by 2 percent a year for five years, until the premiums were covering at least 35 percent of the program's cost. Current monthly premiums for Part B range from $115 to $369, depending on income, according to the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

That change would save $241 billion over 10 years, the Congressional Budget Office says.

Individuals making more than $150,000 a year and couples making more than $300,000 a year would have to pay the full Part B premiums, estimated at over $400 per month.