President should propose Medicare legislation, panel says

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Medicare's growing burden on the federal budget calls for legislation that raises taxes, offers improvements in the Medicare payment system and extends the retirement age, according to Medicare experts.

The experts are members of a panel who convened to discuss the findings of a report by two public trustees made public last week. Medicare is heading toward critical financial condition, due, in part, to the program's new prescription drug benefit, the trustees wrote in the report.

The panelists suggest that to avert insolvency in the hospital insurance trust, President Bush will have to propose legislation to Congress. They also predicted that tax increases and a change in the current retirement age would be needed to secure Medicare's financial future. 

Panelist member Robert D. Reischauer, president of the Urban Institute, said the president will be forced to propose new legislation and call for immediate Congressional action on Medicare before he leaves office and potentially during a presidential election year.

The panelists spoke last week during the Outlook for Medicare and Social Security Conference, an event sponsored by the American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research.