Can't raise taxes? Hike Medicare premiums instead

By RICARDO ALONSO-ZALDIVAR | December 13, 2011 | 3:10 AM EST

WASHINGTON (AP) — Republicans say they don't want to raise taxes on millionaires. But they seem to have no problem hiking Medicare premiums for retirees making a lot less.

The House is expected to vote Tuesday on a year-end economic package that includes increasing premiums for "high-income" Medicare beneficiaries.

Over time the added charges would affect the top one-fourth of seniors. Some would pay several hundred dollars more a month for outpatient and prescription coverage.

Wealthier Medicare recipients have been paying higher premiums for a few years. But only the top-earning 5 percent are currently affected, those making $85,000 individually, $170,000 for families.

The White House is mum on the Republican Medicare proposal, while AARP says it's tantamount to a new tax. Senate Democrats don't like it.