Oklahoma Senator Unveils Plan To Save Medicare

Tuesday, June 28th 2011, 5:04 pm
By: News On 6

NewsOn6.com & Ashli Sims, News On 6

WASHINGTON -- Oklahoma Senator Tom Coburn has teamed up with Independent Joe Lieberman on a bipartisan plan to save Medicare.

Senators Coburn and Lieberman say their plan could save half a trillion dollars and keep the system alive for seniors. But some seniors and their advocates are skeptical.

View a summary of their proposal

"Medicare as we know it may not exist in five years if Congress does not take steps now to preserve the program. Every year we wait makes the inevitable task of structural reform more difficult," Coburn said.

"Doing nothing and letting seniors fend for themselves is the least compassionate and least responsible option," he added. "Our plan will preserve Medicare for current and future enrollees by taking important steps to realign the program with its original intent."

Kathy Rubey, a 40-year veteran school teacher, said she's paid her dues and she wants to reap the benefits.

"Kinda thing that we've waited for Medicare and Social Security so we can have these benefits that we've paid into for so, so long," she said.

But some say Medicare may not be there for Rubey or millions of others.

"Let's say the trustees are right and in 2016 part A goes belly up. What's going to happen?" Coburn said.

The Coburn/Lieberman plan would raise the eligibility age from 65 to 67 by 2025, but it would also slash deductibles.

Right now, if you were admitted to the hospital and went to your annual checkups, you'd pay almost $1,300 for your deductible. Under the Coburn/Lieberman plan, you would pay less than half that, $550 a year.

"That I think will be very attractive to Medicare recipients," Cindy Loftin said.

Cindy Loftin, with Life Senior Services gives monthly seminars on Medicare. She said the plan's cap on out of pocket expenses could also be a plus for seniors.

"Medicare beneficiaries today don't have that. There is no cap on out of pocket. So this could be a lifesaver," she said.

While out of pocket costs would likely go down, premiums would balloon.

Right now, taxpayers pick up most of the bill for seniors Medicare Part B or coverage of physician's visits.  The Coburn/Lieberman plan would require seniors to pay 35 percent of the costs, reducing the taxpayer burden and saving more than $240 billion.

Most seniors pay $96.40 a month now. Under the Lieberman/Coburn plan, that would double by 2019.

Premiums would also increase for prescription drug coverage, depending on how much money you make.

"Yes, more people are going to have difficulty paying for it and they're going to be concerned about what they're going to do for the future," Loftin said.

The Coburn/Lieberman plan would also limit coverage of supplemental insurance plans or Medigap plans.

Right now, people often purchase Medigap plans to cover their Medicare deductibles. That wouldn't be allowed at all. Medigap plans would also be limited to covering half of out of pocket costs.

AARP issued a statement saying the Coburn/Lieberman plan risks putting Medicare out of reach for millions of seniors.