The Commercial Appeal: Just the facts on Medicare

Oct 10, 2011

Let people make up their own minds: Informing Americans about Medicare, as Sen. Corker has proposed, would be useful.

In the partisan atmosphere of Congress, there is one thing on which Republicans and Democrats should agree: Americans need accurate information about Medicare.

Sen. Bob Corker's bill requiring the government to provide an annual statement to taxpayers detailing how much they have paid into Medicare and how much they have received in benefits would do just that.

The Tennessee Republican has a Democratic co-sponsor who agrees -- Sen. Michael Bennet of Colorado. Democratic Rep. Jim Cooper of Tennesssee and Republican House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan of Wisconsin last March introduced a similar bill in the House.

What they and every other American of any political persuasion should be concerned about is that nearly 50 million people on Medicare, as well as those entering the program at the age of 65 in the near future, are likely to receive more in benefits than they have put into the program before they die.

But without changes in the program, anyone under 55 likely faces higher costs and, possibly, longer waits before they qualify for coverage. And the longer the integrity of the program is not addressed, the more dramatic changes will have to be.

Corker's bill simply would require a breakdown of Medicare contributions and benefits to be sent via mail or e-mail to people each year.

Simple, directly distributed information about Medicare -- free of political spin or scare tactics -- could make a great difference in the ability of Americans to formulate their own opinions about one of the U.S. government's most touchy topics.

Medicare, created in 1965, is one of the most popular programs in America's effort to deliver a sense of security to Americans throughout their working life.

Increasing awareness of where things stand would be an important first step in any necessary reform.

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