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Medicare Surtax

December 22, 1988

The very day The Times concluded in its editorial that the organization that I chair was leading a taxpayer rebellion against so-called "catastrophic care" legislation, the Wall Street Journal reported that many congressmen have been impressed with the fact that the thousands of letters they are receiving on this issue are not part of an organized campaign but a spontaneous and almost unanimous expression of dissatisfaction.

Yes, my organization opposed this legislation, and we predicted that there would be a grass-roots rebellion against it. Yes, we are talking with other membership organizations about a change in the financing mechanism and no, we don't think this legislation is a good deal for seniors. But to smear my organization with claims that we frighten the elderly is a tactic that should be beneath The Times.

As reported by your own Washington correspondent in a previous story, many of those other senior-citizens groups that originally supported this income-tax increase and bitterly criticized us have now reversed themselves. That's because our original position is being vindicated by their membership--not because we are "stirring up the pot." Those groups, by the way, are hearing from unhappy moderate-income retirees who are rebelling, not just from wealthy seniors as your editorial asserts.

And to set the record straight: We opposed this legislation for reasons not mentioned in your editorial. First, "user fees" as contained in this law don't make sense. You might as well say that only parents should pay school taxes. Second, long-term care was the real issue that Congress ducked in pushing through this costly and largely unneeded legislation. Third, the absence of built-in cost controls ignore Medicare's history and almost guarantees disastrous premium increases in the future. Finally, it was our belief that this inevitable senior rebellion would make even partial senior financing of long-term care legislation that much more difficult, if not impossible.

JAMES ROOSEVELT

Chairman, National Committee

to Preserve Social Security and Medicare

Washington

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