If Medicare is really an insurance program, than as I wrote last week, the premiums are absurdly low. And this isn't even a rich-poor transfer issue - the premiums are too low for everyone. See the bar chart about halfway down on this page at the NY Times. Here is a screenshot:
Take Social Security first. Taxes come fairly close to covering benefits, with some rich-poor redistribution. These numbers look sensible (leaving aside implied annual returns on investment and whether the government should be running a forced retirement program at all) -- the main reason social security is bankrupts is that in the years when premiums exceeded benefits, Congress raided and spent the funds on unrelated things.
Medicare, though, is a huge problem. Even for high income folks, premiums cover only 43% of the expected benefits (I am not sure how they treat present values and such, but again lets leave that aside, I don't think it affects the underlying point). Assuming we end up with some rich-poor transfer, it looks to me that premiums are low by a factor of three.
Everyone seems to think Medicare is a great deal. Of course it feels that way -- premiums are only covering a third of the costs. There is no way we can have intelligent debate on these programs when the price signals are corrupted. Its time to triple Medicare premiums.