To be clear, the title of this diary isn't an exact quote. But I just finished watching Senator McCaskill (D-MO) tell Meet the Press host David Gregory that she believes that Democrats and Republicans can and should agree to means-test Medicare by raising co-payments and co-insurance based on income.
Now let's make sure that we're all on the same page. If we means-test Medicare, then we're cutting Medicare benefits. We can't write to our elected officials and sign petitions demanding that they don't cut entitlement benefits while simultaneously agreeing with the notion of means-tested Medicare.
Paul Krugman opposes the idea.
The usual argument against means-testing — which is entirely valid — is that it (a) doesn’t save much money and (b) messes up a relatively simple program. The reason it can’t save much money is that there are relatively few people rich enough to be able to afford major cost-sharing. Meanwhile, the good thing about Medicare, as with Social Security, is precisely that it doesn’t depend on your personal financial status — you just get it.
We shouldn't agree to complicate Medicare benefits in order to "simplify" the tax code. Nor should we agree to introduce changes that could ultimately turn Medicare into a program in which 100 percent of us are not fully vested, thereby allowing more and more people to perceive it as a program that doesn't affect them--similar to how many perceive Medicaid.
Krugman continues by pointing out that mean-testing Medicare favors the super rich at the expense of the moderately rich.
So what’s the difference between means-testing and just collecting a bit more taxes? The answer is, class warfare — not between the rich and poor, but between the filthy rich and the merely affluent. For a tax rise would get a significant amount of revenue from the very, very rich (because they have so much money), while means-testing would end up imposing the same burden on $400,000 a year working Wall Street stiffs that it imposes on billion-a-year hedge fund managers.McCaskill's silence, this morning, on allowing Medicare Part D to negotiate prescription drug prices was deafening. Of course, she could have also introduced Meet the Press viewers to the notion of Medicare for All, but chose not to.
Time to call our representatives and let them know that no entitlement benefit cuts means no entitlement benefit cuts. Period.
UPDATE: Thanks to ItsSimpleSimon for posting the relevant video clip and transcript in his 10:30 AM comment below. Here is McCaskill’s money quote from that clip:
I think we can get to means testing fairly easily, more aggressive means testing, some higher co-pays for those people who can afford it...I mean, we’ve got to get to a point where we are really having people who can afford to pay for their health care, having them to take that responsibility instead of the government...I think aggressive means testing for people who can afford it makes sense as we look at long-term savings in the Medicare program.