Biden unveils plan to keep Medicare solvent by raising taxes on high earners

In a preview of his budget plan to be released this week, President Biden on Tuesday rolled out a proposed tax hike on high earners as part of his complicated plan to raise money to keep Medicare solvent.

Under Mr. Biden’s blueprint, Americans earning $400,000 would pay higher taxes on their investments, pharmaceutical companies would be required to pay into Medicare for certain price hikes, and a cap would be imposed on what Medicare Part D pays for many popular drugs.

The White House says the plan would protect Medicare — a program that more than 60 million seniors depend on for health insurance — into the 2050s without cutting benefits.

A key Medicare trust fund is expected to run out in 2028 under current tax and spending levels because it’s shelling out money at a much greater rate than it’s bringing in. That means it faces automatic federal cuts in 2028, creating the possibility that Medicare providers will deny care to the elderly unless Congress and the White House come up with a plan.

Mr. Biden’s proposal would increase the net investment income tax on capital gains and investment income from 3.8% to 5% for all Americans earning more than $400,000 per year. The plan would also impose new taxes on certain businesses that are not subject to the corporate income tax.

“High-income people are supposed to pay a 3.8% Medicare tax on all of their income, but some high-paid professionals and other wealthy business owners have managed to shield some of their income from tax by claiming it is neither earned income nor investment income,” the White House said in a statement.

The proposal would also require pharmaceutical companies to pay into Medicare when they increase prices faster than inflation. The White House says this rule change could add roughly $200 billion to Medicare’s coffers over the next decade.

It would also cap the out-of-pocket cost of certain generic drugs at $2 per prescription a month, which would include popular hypertension and high cholesterol drugs.

The plan would also require Medicare to cover three mental or behavioral health visits per year.

Mr. Biden unveiled the plan as part of his broader 2024 budget proposal, which is set to be released Thursday. The president’s budget faces a difficult path to approval through a GOP-controlled House.

Republicans will surely oppose all new proposed tax hikes in the administration’s plan, and some GOP lawmakers are pressing the White House to cut spending.

The White House and GOP lawmakers are already battling over federal spending levels and the soaring national debt, which could lead to a potential debt crisis this summer.

The pharmaceutical industry is also expected to rebuke Mr. Biden’s Medicare plan. Drug companies have argued that price capping and increasing their contribution to the program takes dollars away from research and innovation.

As Mr. Biden scrambles to address the Medicare shortfall, he faces a similar crisis with another entitlement program. Funding for Social Security could be depleted by 2033.

Mr. Biden pledged in his State of the Union remarks that he would roll out a plan to protect Medicare for the next two decades but did not make a similar promise for Social Security.

Democrats have urged Mr. Biden to increase payroll taxes on high earners to keep Social Security solvent, but the president has not pursued that idea.

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