Medicare: Off To A Fresh Start

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WASHINGTON, D.C.: Republicans are back on thin ice with the elderly after passing measures that would keep the balanced budget bill intact by gradually increasing the Medicare eligibility age for benefits to 67 and raising monthly premiums for well-to-do seniors. Although the full increase would not take effect until 2027, Democrats have already bashed the Medicare measure as putting an unfair economic burden on Baby Boomers, Medicare's sink-or-swim generation, by forcing Boomers to care for their elderly parents. "We will put people into ruin," said Barbara Boxer. Under the plan, premiums for seniors with annual incomes over $50,000 would increase from the standard $540 by about $32 for each additional $1,000 in income, peaking by 1998 at $2,160 for beneficiaries with incomes exceeding $100,000. The Medicare revision would raise an estimated $4 billion over the next five years to help provide the $1.5 billion the White House wants to help poor seniors pay their Medicare premiums. Even so, the President has said he will not support the package as part of a balanced budget deal.