Ryan Defends Medicare Reform Plan, Responds to Gingrich Criticism
On Monday, House Budget Committee Chair Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) delivered a "forceful defense" of the House GOP plan to overhaul Medicare during a radio interview and in a speech before members of Chicago's business community, the Washington Post reports (Rucker, Washington Post, 5/16).
The plan -- a centerpiece of Ryan's budget blueprint -- is in the House-approved GOP fiscal year 2012 budget resolution (H Con Res 34). It would give beneficiaries fixed, lump-sum vouchers to purchase private health insurance (California Healthline, 5/11).
In a speech at the Economic Club of Chicago, Ryan insisted that the federal government would not be able to resolve the two pressing fiscal issues facing the country at the moment -- the budget deficit and debt ceiling -- without addressing the high costs of health care over the long term, echoing a similar assertion by House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), the Post notes.
Ryan said the GOP FY 2012 budget resolution "takes credible steps to controlling health care costs," adding, "It aims to do two things: To put our budget on a path to balance and to put our economy on a path to prosperity" (Washington Post, 5/16).
He added that the budget resolution "makes no changes for those in or near retirement and offers future generations a strengthened Medicare program they can count on, with guaranteed coverage options, less help for the wealthy, and more help for the poor and the sick" (Calmes/Hulse, New York Times, 5/16).
Ryan also suggested that the debate over his budget blueprint's proposals -- particularly the Medicare reform plan, which has been widely criticized by Democrats, elderly voters and even prominent Republicans -- has become an argument "over who to hurt and how best to manage the decline of our nation," adding that it is "a framework that accepts ever-higher taxes and bureaucratically rationed health care as givens. I call it the shared-scarcity mentality. The missing ingredient, of course, is economic growth" (Washington Post, 5/16).
Gingrich 'Missing the Mark' on Medicare Plan, Ryan Says
Before his speech at the Economic Club of Chicago, Ryan appeared on a conservative radio show, during which he responded to Republican presidential candidate and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich's (Ga.) recent characterization of the Medicare proposal as "right-wing social engineering," the Los Angeles Times reports (Oliphant, Los Angeles Times, 5/16).
During an interview on NBC's "Meet the Press" on Sunday, Gingrich said he would not support the Medicare reform plan because it is "too big a jump." He noted that he opposes the federal health reform law because it "impose[s] radical change," adding that the Medicare proposal also would compel such change. "[W]e need a national conversation to get to a better Medicare solution for seniors," he said (Hernandez, New York Times, 5/15).
During the radio interview, Ryan said, "I am not sure if he is familiar with just how dire the situation is," adding, "With allies like that, who needs liberals?" (Sanchez, National Journal, 5/16).
Meanwhile, after his speech at the Economic Club of Chicago, Ryan told reporters that Gingrich is "missing the mark on what our plan actually does." Ryan also explained that the proposal would give beneficiaries greater control over their health care and bring down costs (Webber, AP/Miami Herald, 5/16).
Ryan Reiterates Opposition to IPAB, Questions Waivers
During his speech, Ryan also criticized two key issues related to the health reform law and reiterated that he wants the law to be repealed, Politico reports. He said that President Obama's new deficit-reduction proposal aims to strengthen the powers of the Independent Payment Advisory Board, which the law requires Obama to establish to rein in growth in Medicare spending.
"The president's plan begins with trillions of dollars in higher taxes, and it relies on a plan to control costs in Medicare that would give a board of 15 unelected bureaucrats in Washington the power to deeply ration care," adding, "This would disrupt the lives of those currently in retirement and lead to waiting lists for today's seniors" (Haberkorn, Politico, 5/16).
Ryan also criticized the reform law waivers, which the Obama administration already has granted to more than 1,300 businesses and other entities.
He said the waivers are "a devastating indictment" of the overhaul and noted that although the waivers "may prevent job losses now ... they do not guarantee relief in the future, nor do they help those firms that lack the connections to lobby for waivers. This is no way to create jobs in America. True, bipartisan health care reform starts by repealing this partisan law" (Adams, CQ Today, 5/16).
Medicare Overhaul Proposal a Non-Starter, Pelosi Reiterates
Meanwhile, during a pair of television appearances on CNBC and Bloomberg News on Monday, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) acknowledged that although changes to Medicare are "on the table," the House GOP's reform proposal is not, the Post reports (Washington Post, 5/16).
She said Democrats "are open to many suggestions" for Medicare savings, adding, "We cannot take that off the table."
Although the Medicare reform proposal already has been approved in the GOP-controlled House, Pelosi characterized the plan as the "abolishment of Medicare" (New York Times, 5/16). She added that Democrats "do not support that" (Washington Post, 5/16).