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Timely proposals to reform medicare

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By considering changes in funding methods for the medicare program, the Reagan administration finds itself caught in a political thicket. Eugene Eidenberg, director of the Democratic National Committee, for example, has said that just one of the proposals now being studied - a possible means test to determine who would be eligible to receive medicare benefits - will generate ''a firestorm of reaction.'' Mr. Eidenberg has suggested that Democrats will campaign on the medicare issue in upcoming congressional elections.

Surely what is not needed at this point is turning the whole knotty medicare funding problem into just another campaign issue subject to demagogy from all sides of the political spectrum. What is needed - and long overdue - is a hard-headed and sober assessment of a major social security program that will cost $50 billion this year, and unless reformed by Congress, close to $100 billion by 1987. The Reagan administration deserves plaudits for a willingness to weigh options for a reform of the program that meets health-care costs for some 29 million Americans.

Among the changes now being considered for medicare: raising basic costs to recipients, such as requiring larger deductibles; requiring beneficiaries to pay a fixed percentage of hospital charges under the Part A coverage, which would, in effect, be similiar to what is now required under the Part B coverage; introduction of a possible means test to determine levels of support to elderly persons above certain income levels; turning medicare into a form of ''catastrophic'' coverage that would begin above outlays of, say, $3,000. Supplemental coverage below such levels, however, would be available at a special premium.

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