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Gary Markstein • Milwaukee Journal Sentinel,

Letter of the Day (March 22): Social Security and Medicare

  • March 21, 2014 - 5:50 PM

Baby boomer entitlements give us two quite different problems, not one (“Fellow baby boomers, we have a job to do,” March 16).

The easy one is Social Security. For instance, simply removing the cap on the Social Security wage tax (there is no such cap for the Medicare tax) would supply 116 percent of funds needed to fix the problem, according to a 2010 U.S. Senate Special Committee on Aging report.

The tax then was levied on incomes up to $106,800; now it’s $117,000. At that level, it might be more affordable for employees and employers than reining in benefits for the elderly. Removing the cap should please “flat tax” advocates and help save Social Security for younger employees.

That’s unfair, it’s been argued, because benefits would not rise commensurate with larger contributions. But individuals don’t automatically get better national defense, schools, roads, parks, police protection or other government services if they pay more in other taxes.

The bigger, harder, more immediate problem is Medicare, which is tied to ills of the elderly as well as general health cost increases.

Logical fixes demand multiple sacrifices across the board for boomers and others, and might include means testing, negotiated drug prices, case management instead of fee-for-service reimbursement, a Medicare tax increase, a quick end to the additional government subsidies for Medicare Advantage, malpractice reform, more scrutiny of medical-equipment prices and even a lower Medicare age to bring in more healthy consumers. And consumers should copay for some of their health care decisions.

Robert Franklin, Medina

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