President Reagan charged yesterday that a catastrophic-illness insurance plan passed by the House would tax the elderly poor and bankrupt the Medicare trust fund.
Although White House officials said earlier in the week that compromise is possible on features of a plan the president submitted in January once the House bill is taken up by the Senate, Reagan lashed out at House Democrats and warned:
"The American people are doing a slow burn over Congress' failure to face up responsibly to the problem, and I think the public temperature is going to rise even higher when it understands that Congress has been trifling with a plan to protect elderly Americans with insurance against catastrophic illness . . . without taxing the elderly into servitude."
Reagan took issue with the House plan to require better-off recipients to pay an additional $580 premium for expanded coverage. His proposal asked for one of about $70 a year.
"I promised Americans a plan that would protect you in your retirement years from financial devastation brought on by a catastrophic illness requiring prolonged hospitalization and medical care," Reagan said. "In return, the Democratic House more than tripled the cost,increased tax rates for virtually all elderly taxpayers, expanded the program so much that in about 15 years, it will run a $20 billion deficit and threaten the solvency of the entire Medicare trust fund."