GOP Leaders Defend House Plan To Revamp Medicare Program
On Sunday, House Budget Committee Chair Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) insisted that the House GOP proposal to overhaul Medicare is the best solution to ensure the program's fiscal sustainability, Modern Healthcare reports (Zigmond, Modern Healthcare, 5/22).
The Medicare proposal would give beneficiaries fixed, lump-sum vouchers to purchase private health insurance. It is included in the House-approved GOP fiscal year 2012 budget resolution (H Con Res 34) (California Healthline, 5/17).
In an interview on Sunday's "Meet the Press," Ryan said that his proposal is a "sensible" and "rational" plan to save Medicare. He noted that the proposal also is an essential part of dealing with the "debt crisis," which cannot be resolved "unless you're serious about entitlement reform."
During the interview, Ryan also condemned President Obama's recent deficit-reduction proposalÂ to strengthen the Independent Payment Advisory Board, adding that it would "give the government the power to deny care to seniors" and "put price controls and rationing in place for current seniors."
Ryan said that Republicans are willing to negotiate with Democrats on the issue. However, he said that Democrats have not yet introduced a proposal (Modern Healthcare, 5/22).
Cantor Also Defends Medicare Proposal
On Friday, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) said that the Ryan proposal would preserve Medicare, the Washington Post's "2chambers" reports.
Cantor said, "Democrats like to champion themselves as the defenders of Medicare, but today's Democratic Party is willing to stand idly by as Medicare goes bankrupt."
Cantor noted that the latest Medicare Trustees report predicted that the program's hospital fund will be insolvent by 2024. He said Democrats are doing "nothing to save Medicare from collapse," and they "have tried to scare seniors by mischaracterizing real solutions to strengthen and save the program and using those efforts as a political weapon" (Sonmez, "2chambers," Washington Post, 5/20).
Republicans Ignored Warnings About Medicare Proposal
Before House Republicans approved the Ryan budget plan, Republican pollsters reportedly warned GOP lawmakers that the Medicare overhaul might be "a political time bomb," Politico reports.
Voter opinion poll numbers gathered by the Tarrance Group and other conservative polling firms apparently were "so toxic" that officials at the National Republican Congressional Committee were forced to warn GOP leaders not to proceed with the plan, according to Politico. However, the lawmakers went forward with the measure, and all but four Republican House members voted for its passage (Thrush/Sherman, Politico, 5/23).
Medicare Does Not Need To Be Cut, Voters Say
More than half of U.S. voters believe it is possible to balance the federal budget without cutting Medicare spending, according to an Associated Press-GfK poll released on Monday, the AP/San Francisco Chronicle reports.
For the poll, 1,001 adults were surveyed over the telephone between May 5 and May 9 about proposals to scale back Medicare and Social Security spending. Respondents who identified themselves as Democrats or independents were more likely than Republicans to say that spending should not be cut for either program, according to the AP/Chronicle (Alonso-Zaldivar, AP/San Francisco Chronicle, 5/23).
New State-by-State Analysis Suggests Substantial Cost Increase
Democrats have begun pointing to a new state-by-state analysis of the Ryan measure by the Joint Economic Committee, noting that it shows that the plan as it stands could force U.S. residents to pay substantially more out of pocket for health care over the next decade, CQ HealthBeat reports.
According to CQ HealthBeat, JEC used the April Congressional Budget Office analysis of the bill to quantify its finding for individual states. The CBO report estimated that the out-of-pocket costs for the average 65-year-old Medicare beneficiary would double under the House GOP plan. According to JEC's analysis, health care costs in at least two states -- Florida and New Jersey -- could rise by as much as $7,000 per person on average in 2022 (Adams, CQ HealthBeat, 5/20).
Analysis: Core Concept of Ryan Medicare Plan Viable
Some prominent experts on health care policy suggest that the core concept of Ryan's Medicare overhaul plan might be more viable than the broader plan itself, CQ HealthBeat reports.
The basis of the plan -- known as premium support -- would allow beneficiaries to select their Medicare coverage from a variety of competing plans and provide them with a fixed payment to help reduce their premium costs.
Health policy experts say that a modified proposal that retains the premium support from Ryan's plan could win Democratic support, "improbable as it may seem," according to CQ HealthBeat (Reichard, CQ HealthBeat, 5/20).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.