November 13, 2012

Another View: Column offers misleading data on Medicare taxes, benefits


In his column "There's no free lunch Part 2: Medicare is unsustainable" (Nov. 2), M.D. Harmon said, "On average, couples that retired in 2011 paid $150,000 in Medicare taxes throughout their working lives, but (over their expected life spans) will receive more than $350,000 in benefits." This statement is so unreal as to border on the surreal.

Assuming a couple who both worked from age 18 to retirement (age 65) without any break in their employment, in order to arrive at the "$150,000 in Medicare taxes (paid) throughout their working lives," they would have had to earn an average annual income of $80,000 each. (This is based on the weighted average of the Medicare tax on individuals over the same period of time, which calculates to be 1.9 percent per year.)

The "$350,000 in benefits" received after age 65 is an unsubstantiated figure that translates into between $6,000 and $9,000 in medical costs per year, per person, depending on whether they live to age 85 or 95.

M.D. Harmon's calculations (or lack thereof) are unreal and grossly misleading, and his conclusion that "the amount spent on care will exceed funds paid in by a declining proportion of workers in just 12 years" makes no sense.

That said, the rest of his column should be taken with a grain of salt.

Robert J. Seeber of Windham is a retired certified public accountant.


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