Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Social Security Recipients Want Changes in Medicare Surtax

Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Social Security Recipients Want Changes in Medicare Surtax

Article excerpt

One could easily get the idea that social security recipients, who also are the prime beneficiaries of Medicare benefits, are among the nation's wealthiest groups.

Many people, usually those with a specific political point of view, are fond of saying that the elderly have all the money they need and then some.

What they have been telling members of Congress lately is that they may have money, but not enough to pay the surtax imposed on Medicare premiums as a device to pay for catastrophic medical care coverage.

Plainly, they want changes made.

Oklahoma Sens. David Boren and Don Nickles have had an earful of advice from disgruntled elders, and seem ready to leap through firey hoops. Both now want to grant relief, although they were in a mood recently to delay coverage for two years while searching for an alternative and fairer financing mechanism. News accounts had them backing such a measure.

Chances are that a two-year delay won't be imposed. But it's a good bet that the surtax will be cut, despite objections from the Bush administration.

No less a force than Sen. Lloyd Benson of Texas is advocating a 16 percent cut in the surtax, an amount that adds up to $4 billion. As chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, he holds considerable power. He will, however, have to stare down an adamant White House which seems to think that the program as constructed is styled for funds.

At a hearing before Benson's committee last week, Health and Human Services Secretary Louis Sullivan said the expected revenues, especially those needed to pay for prescription drugs, will fall far short of the costs.

"More harm can be done by being overly optimistic about the financing of these benefits than by being prudently cautious," he said.

There are other suggested solutions, if the administration's estimates are on the mark. If more money is needed, some Democratic members of the committee are saying get it by imposing an income tax increase on the top one percent of taxpayers. They would, at the same time, eliminate the premium surtax.

As it stands now, the people covered by Medicare must pay a premium of $22. …

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