Sen. Schumer has a good idea about adding dental, hearing and vision benefits to Medicare. The trick is how to pay for it. The current Medicare payroll deduction for those still working is 1.45 percent.

As our population continues to age and live longer, there are fewer people still working and paying into Medicare. At the same time, more people continue to enroll in Medicare. Remember that our national birth rate continues to decline.

Here is a fiscally responsible way to pay for the additional Medicare benefits that Schumer proposes for those who do not have private Medicare supplemental plans already paying for dental, hearing and vision benefits.

According to the nonpartisan Congressional budget office, the estimated cost could be $35 billion annually. Medicare payroll withholding should increase from 1.45 percent to 1.50 percent. This .05 percent increase should continue over the next ten years until reaching 2 percent.

For those already on Medicare, recipient quarterly payments should increase by fifty dollars for a total of $200 dollars annually. Increases in future years can be based upon what the Medicare program shortfall becomes for new dental, hearing and vision benefits.

Asking retirees to contribute $50 every three months for a total of $200 per year is only fair when you consider the value of these new benefits. For those who are happy with their current private supplemental plans and not want to enroll, this new program could be considered a new optional Part E Medicare program.

These financial contributions from current and future generations will go a long way to paying for increasing the scope of benefits and preserving Medicare’s financial solvency.

With a $29 trillion federal deficit projected to grow by $1 trillion or more per annually for years to come, we need to pay more attention to the issue of fiscal solvency. TANSTAFFL, there ain’t no such thing as a free lunch or in this case increasing Medicare benefits. Someone has to pick up the tab.

Larry Penner

Great Neck

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