Lieberman, Coburn introduce Medicare plan on Capitol Hill

Jacqueline Klimas | Contributor

Sens. Joe Lieberman, Connecticut independent, and Tom Coburn, Oklahoma Republican, rolled out their bipartisan plan to save Medicare Tuesday on Capitol Hill.

The pair’s proposal, which would save more than $600 billion over 10 years, includes changes that would ask the wealthy to pay more, putting a cap on out-of-pocket expenses and increasing the minimum premium from 25 to 35 percent. The plan would also raise the minimum enrollment age from 65 to 67 over the next 12 years, to account for greater life expectancies.

Lieberman and Coburn urged their fellow lawmakers to think about the next generation rather than the next election.

“We both love our children and grandchildren and we don’t want to leave our country to them in such an economic mess that they won’t have the same opportunities we had growing up in America,” said Lieberman, who crossed party lines to work with Coburn.

While Lieberman said that he would never have imagined making these cuts 10 years ago, he stressed that inaction would lead to disaster, both for the Medicare program and the seniors who rely on it.

“We can’t save Medicare as we know it. We can only save Medicare if we change it,” he said. (Conservative group flags Obama appointee for questionable taxpayer expenses)

Coburn stressed the need for immediacy, saying that waiting any longer to make changes is like placing a smoke alarm in your home after the fire is already raging.

“The longer we wait to act, the more painful it will be for the people who are most dependent on these programs,” Coburn said.

To Democrats, who may be opposed to the changes proposed by the senators, Lieberman said that, “what’s on the other side of it is that this program is going to get very sick” unless Congress acts.

Both senators made compromises in this bipartisan proposal, but they realize that each change will make at least one sector of the population upset. However, they maintained that the current system will not continue to work and needs revision. As it stands, each enrollee in the program takes out three times as much as they contributed while working.

“It doesn’t matter what politician is standing up here or who is in the administration. Five years from now, Medicare will not be the same because we can’t borrow enough money to keep it the same,” Coburn said.

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