Jul 07, 2011 at 6:40 pm
I keep hearing people referring to the budget talks suggesting the Medicare should be means tested.
Medicare is means tested. You might want it to be more so (the current means test only hits the top 5% of beneficiaries by income), but as my colleague Paul Van de Water points out, it already is…means-tested, that is.
You don’t believe me? Here’s a table from a Social Security Administration document that explains the means test for Medicare Part B and Part D.
Also, this idea isn’t the slam dunk everyone seems to think it is. I understand the appeal and it certainly makes sense to ask for more for a program facing a tight budget from those who can afford it. But the history of social policy leads me to worry about this: once you shift a program from universal coverage to means testing, it’s increasingly vulnerable to deeper means testing until it eventually becomes a poverty program which everyone wants to get rid of.
I’d say the same thing about Social Security. Benefits should not be sacrosanct, but when you’re dealing with these entitlements, any cuts to benefit receipt for persons of any income level should come further down the list from costs savings through efficiency gains and balanced revenue measures.
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