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February 17, 2012 - 2:31 PM

Washington Examiner - GOP senators offer Medicare reform plan

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Washington Examiner

GOP senators offer Medicare reform plan

By Susan Ferrenchio

Two Republican senators on Thursday introduced a plan to quickly and drastically reform Medicare, calling on lawmakers and candidates to stop ducking the issue because of election-year politics.

"It is morally unacceptable to ignore the biggest elephant in the room, which will have a very negative impact on this country's future, just because there is an election year coming up," the plan's co-author, Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., said.

Coburn and Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C., wrote the Senior's Choice Act, which would reduce Medicare costs by raising the beneficiaries' eligibility age and by allowing people to opt out and use competing private health care plans instead. It also cuts costs by increasing co-payments for the wealthy. The 60,000 millionaires who now receive Medicare would pay the full cost of Medicare Parts B and D premiums and have a higher deductible under the plan.

Medicare, which cost $523 billion in 2011, can't be sustained as it is now, Coburn said. The portion of the program that pays hospitals could run out of money by 2016.

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Antos said it makes economic sense to start the reforms more quickly because immediate cost savings are needed to keep Medicare solvent.

"This one doesn't wait until 2022 for real reform to happen, and that is absolutely essential," Antos said.

While Coburn and Burr admitted they had yet to round up any support in the Senate for their plan, they predicted it will serve as a blueprint for the kind of major Medicare reform they believe is both necessary and inevitable in the coming years.

"We believe there should be a sense of urgency in Congress to change this program and to do it now," Coburn said. "If not, our challenge will be how to we provide benefits in a system that has gone bankrupt."

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