Political battle over Medicare is expected to resume

June 03, 1996|By NEW YORK TIMES NEWS SERVICE

WASHINGTON -- The political war over the future of Medicare is about to resume.

On Wednesday, the trustees of the $200 billion-a-year Medicare system are expected to confirm warnings by the Congressional Budget Office that the program is going broke faster than ever.

Republican leaders in Congress say they plan to blame President Clinton, who vetoed legislation last year that would have restrained Medicare spending.

The White House will accuse the Republicans once more of trying to decimate health care for retirees to raise money for tax cuts for the rich, leading Democrats say.

Lost in the fight are the two serious proposals that Republicans and Democrats have actually offered this spring to halt Medicare's fiscal slide. Outside experts say the plans offer a basis for a compromise that would stabilize the program.

Virtually nobody expects such a compromise to occur.

One reason is unalloyed politics. Officials on both sides believe that their positions are politically advantageous, and that a compromise would cost them their edge.

The Democrats' strategy is aimed at tightening their hold on the majority of the 33 million potential voters who are 65 or older; their plan is more generous to the aged.

Republicans have cast their appeals in terms of the young; their plan restrains more spending now in the name of saving money for future generations.

Pub Date: 6/03/96

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