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The Takeaway: Medicare Compromise Proposed; Aging Entrepreneurs Hang On

Future Beneficiaries Could Choose Private Plans: Liberal Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., and House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan, R-Wis., have teamed up to come up with a political compromise on Medicare spending. Their proposal would give older adults the option of sticking with the traditional Medicare program getting a government voucher to pay for private health insurance-satisfying both Democrats' desire to leave Medicare alone and Republicans' drive to bring market competition to the program. "The status quo is the greatest threat to seniors," Ryan said.

Reactions have been mixed. As far as AARP goes, Executive Vice President Nancy LeaMond says they're still reviewing the Wyden-Ryan proposal which, in its current form, leaves many details unclear.

... even at this high level obvious risks come to mind," LeaMond added. "We want to make sure Medicare remains a viable and affordable option for our seniors. We need more information to comment on the proposal further.

Here are a few tidbits Ryan and Wyman have laid out about their plan:

- Medicare would stay the same for those 55 and older. The first seniors allowed to opt into the new program would be those turning 65 after 2022.

- Future Medicare beneficiaries would choose between the traditional insurance program and a private plan, for which the federal government would give them a set amount of money to pay the premium (the amount would be set at the cost of the second-lowest of the plans available).

We've got more details and reactions here.

Aging Entrepreneurs: For small business owners, aging and retirement pose special challenges. National Journal tells the story of John and Patsy McArthur, both 63, who planned to sell their small construction company and use the proceeds to retire-until the housing bust.

When you put every penny you have into building a business whose value then disappears, living on a beach doesn't seem as important anymore," said Patsy McArthur. "That's the tragedy of what's happened in small-business America. So many business owners don't have dreams-about retirement or otherwise-anymore."

Between 2007-2008, Americans 55 to 64 started 10,000 businesses a month, more than any other age group. And older entrepreneurs aren't planning to sell right now. Barbara Taylor, cofounder of Arkansas brokerage firm Synergy Business Services, told National Journal that "business owners who may have hoped to be out from under the grind-and risk-associated with ownership are indeed holding on to their businesses ... it's a bad time to sell, which means we may have business owners delaying retirement for quite some time."

But some older entrepreneurs, like IT consultancy owner Jim Smith, are delaying retirement out of choice, not necessity. "If you are an entrepreneur, you'd better think long and hard about whether you really want to stop," Smith said. "I was dumbfounded by how fast I got bored and how much I missed my work."

Friday Quick Hits:

  • The Obama administration yesterday proposed new rules guaranteeing a minimum wage and overtime protections for home health care workers-one of this country's fastest-growing professions.
  • Journalist and critic Christopher Hitchens has died from pneumonia, a complication of oesophagal cancer; he was 62.
  • Joe Simon, co-creator of Captain America, has died; he was 98.

Photo: Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call/Getty Images

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