WASHINGTON — 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.