Ryan’s Plan To Overhaul Medicare Continues To Face Heat at Town Halls
A plan to overhaul Medicare in House Budget Committee Chair Paul Ryan's (R-Wis.) fiscal year 2012 budget blueprint continues to face vocal opposition in town-hall meetings across the country, Politico reports (Haberkorn, Politico, 4/28).
The Medicare reform plan -- a centerpiece of the House-approved GOP FY 2012 budget resolution (H Con Res 34) -- would privatize the program by providing beneficiaries with fixed, lump-sum vouchers to purchase private health insurance.
The broader budget blueprint would make $6 trillion in federal spending cuts over the next decade and repeal and defund the federal health reform law (California Healthline, 4/25).
Ryan himself has faced criticism at 19 public events over the past two weeks, during which he discussed the budget plan (Korte, USA Today, 4/29).
Residents booed Ryan at a meeting in Greenfield, Wis., when he said the Medicare changes would affect only people who currently are younger than 55. An audience member asked, "What about my son?" (Haberkorn, Politico, 4/28).
A fifth-grade teacher also criticized Ryan for supporting other initiatives that increased federal spending. Amy Kinosian, the teacher, said, "Did you vote for both wars in Iraq and Afghanistan? Did you vote for any offsetting budget cuts?" She added, "You voted for Medicare Part D -- again with no funding."
Ryan acknowledged that he voted for the wars and for the Part D program, but he said the prescription drug portion of Medicare -- for which the government subsidizes a variety of competing prescription drug plans -- should act as a model for his program-wide overhaul. He said that more competition will bring Medicare costs down, especially if insurers can sell plans across state lines (USA Today, 4/29).
The Washington Post's "The Plum Line" reports that at leastÂ nine other House Republicans have been criticized by constituents at events over the Easter recess (Sargent, "The Plum Line," Washington Post, 4/28). However, USA Today reports that many of the town halls have been mostly friendly, with only a few pointed questions from attendees (USA Today, 4/29).
Legitimacy of Town-Hall Strife Questioned
Observers have noted that the town-hall discontent over Ryan's plan might not be entirely organic, since some of the attendees protesting Medicare changes were sent by various union organizations and political action groups, Politico reports.
Chuck Loveless -- legislative director for the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees -- said his group has sent staff members to 10 states to meet with union members and encourage their opposition to Ryan's plan.
AFSCME also has partnered with Health Care for America Now, the Alliance for Retired Americans and Americans United to hold local events in Florida, Illinois, Maine and Wisconsin. HCAN also has emailed supporters to encourage their attendance at town-hall meetings (Cogan/Allen, Politico, 4/28).
Meanwhile, Citizens Action of Wisconsin and the Milwaukee Labor Council have organized a group of seniors to follow Ryan across the state to various events and vocally oppose the budget initiative (Nocera, Politico, 4/28).
Ethan Rome, executive director of HCAN, said that just because supporters of the groups are being urged to go to the events does not mean their criticisms are not legitimate. He said, "There's authentic anger about what Republicans are doing, and people understand that this is important."
Ryan Plan Stalled in Congress
According to National Journal, Ryan's budget plan cannot move forward in Congress without authorization from House committees that have jurisdiction over Medicare, and the committees have not yet scheduled any hearings on the proposal.
House Republican aides say the committees are waiting to consider the plan until they have more information about President Obama's deficit-reduction blueprint.
In addition, the House currently is focused on legislation that would raise the federal debt limit, which could include strategies for controlling Medicare spending. However, GOP lawmakers are not likely to attach Ryan's plan to a debt-limit measure (McCarthy, National Journal, 4/28).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.