Ryan’s Budget Proposal Could Seek Changes to Medicare Eligibility Age
House Budget Committee Chair Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) has been privately circulating the idea that his budget proposal might include changes to future Medicare retirement benefits for people who currently are as old as 59, despite GOP leaders' pledge that the program would not be altered for people ages 55 and older, The Hill reports (Hooper, The Hill, 3/5).
Details of Ryan's Proposal
Ryan plans to introduce the proposal on Wednesday in a press briefing (Sherman/Allen, Politico, 3/4).
The proposal also aims to balance the federal budget in a decade, much quicker than the budget proposal Ryan introduced last year, which had a goal of a balanced budget by 2040. According to The Hill, the change will lead to deeper spending cuts (The Hill, 3/5).
In addition, the new proposal would enact changes to Medicare more quickly than the previous proposal, which delayed those alterations until 2023.
Republican strategists say the changes were necessary to convince conservatives to postpone debt ceiling negotiations and to support a bill funding the government through the end of the fiscal year.
GOP aides said the plan will maintain the $700 billion in Medicare savings that are part of the Affordable Care Act, despite Ryan and GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney criticizing them on the campaign trail (Montgomery, Washington Post, 3/4).
According to Politico, the new budget proposal suggests moving the plan forward via the process of budget reconciliation, a filibuster-proof approach toward entitlement reform (Politico, 3/4).
Some Republicans, Democrats Criticize Proposal
Some Republicans are skeptical of the move to change Medicare benefits for older individuals.
Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.) said, "I know a number of people who have real concerns about where this is going."
Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.) said, "There's plenty of political peril associated with this," adding, "Whether we as a conference have the stomach to look at Medicare and Social Security spending will be the make-or-break part of the deal."
Democrats were quick to denounce the plan.
Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) said the proposal "violates important commitments to our seniors and the middle class" (Washington Post, 3/4).
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said she does not expect many Democrats to vote in favor of Ryan's budget (Politico, 3/4).
Democrats Prepare Separate Budget Plan
Meanwhile, Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) -- the new Budget Committee chair -- said Democrats are planning to introduce their own 10-year budget framework for the first time in three years.
The plan would replace the cuts under sequestration with higher taxes on high-income U.S. residents, she said.
According to the Post, the White House has been working closely with congressional Democrats and has delayed the release of President Obama's budget plan by more than four weeks while waiting for Republicans' framework to be released (Washington Post, 3/4).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.