February 17, 2012 - 2:15 PM

Hot Air - GOP senators introduce new plan to overhaul Medicare

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Hot Air

GOP senators introduce new plan to overhaul Medicare

By Tina Korbe

Republicans Sens. Tom Coburn (Okla.) and Richard Burr (N.C.) today unveiled a plan to revamp Medicare that would accelerate a transition to private insurance, raise the benefit eligibility age and up the premiums paid by middle-class and upper-income seniors. (Avik Roy calls it “the best Medicare reform proposal yet.”)

Coburn said it best when he explained to The Washington Times why they decided to release the plan in an election year, when it’s unlikely to actually go anywhere: “All of us in Congress are running around fixing everything except our biggest problem. If you don’t start fixing Medicare, you can’t save it.”

Overextended entitlement programs are the key drivers of the national debt, and, of the Big Three, Medicare is most in need of reform. Consider: Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security will consume all tax revenues by 2049, according to The Heritage Foundation’s Budget Chart Book. Medicare spending is adding to future deficits faster than any other program spending.

Yet, politicians continue to avoid the issue. The Senate’s dereliction of duty on a budget matters so much precisely because the appropriations process doesn’t touch entitlements; the yearly budget is the ideal place to take stock of entitlement programs and to make needed adjustments. With no budget in three years, the federal government has operated on autopilot when it comes to entitlements — at a time when it least can afford to do so, as a debt crisis is looming. The Super Committee that grew out of this summer’s debt ceiling showdown also ignored entitlement reform.

Coburn and Burr, then, deserve the respect, praise and attention of their congressional colleagues simply because they had the bravery to bring up an unpopular subject.

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