Leading Democratic lawmakers have suggested that raising premiums for wealthy Medicare beneficiaries could be a matter of common ground with Republicans in the ongoing deficit-reduction talks.
The new proposal for means testing is really more about additional forms of means testing in the Medicare program. The problem is many of us don’t know that much about Medicare and choices already in the system:
The idea of affluence testing is not new — wealthy Medicare recipients already pay higher premiums for doctor visits and prescription drug coverage. With the introduction of some means-testing measures — wealthier people on Medicare have paid higher premiums for care from doctors since 2007 — Democrats began arguing that the system is progressive enough.
House Energy and Commerce Committee ranking member Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) "We already have a substantial amount of means-testing in the Medicare program — most significantly, there is no cap on the income subject to the Medicare tax, and in fact, we also have means testing now of the Part B and Part D premiums. It is a mistake to go further."
President Obama proposed raising Medicare premiums for wealthy seniors in his budget and during the 2011 debt-ceiling negotiations. The Congressional Budget Office estimated that Obama's proposed budget measure — raising Part B and D costs by 15 percent for higher-income seniors starting in 2017 — would raise $30 billion. "Means-testing on Medicare, meaning [on] people like myself … You can envision a situation where, for somebody in my position, having to pay a little bit more on premiums or co-pays or things like that would be appropriate," Obama said in July 2011.
AARP Senior Vice President Joyce Rogers said at the time. "Applying a means test for their earned benefits would erode the popular support that has sustained these programs for years and made them so effective in helping older households."
Why it would erode popular support is the next question. I’m looking that up now.