Oregon Democratic senator Ron Wyden is getting hammered by the White House for his courageous move to join House Budget Committee chairman Paul Ryan in co-sponsoring the best Medicare-modernization proposal yet.
The Ryan-Wyden plan would move Medicare to a more modern defined-benefit program and give seniors a choice of competing plans — plans that would have an incentive to innovate and produce the best care at the best prices. Everyone would be guaranteed coverage, including traditional Medicare, and lower-income seniors would get extra help, including a funded account for out-of-pocket expenses. Prices would be determined by the marketplace, not Washington’s price controls. It also creates a path to a more seamless transition from job-based private insurance to Medicare.
Importantly, Ryan-Wyden plan builds on the structure that has had bipartisan support for more than a decade and which virtually everyone who has studied Medicare reform agrees is the platform to save the program from bankruptcy and from bankrupting the federal government.
This shows, once again, that Senator Wyden is a serious legislator concerned about good policy, and it also shows that legislative proposals are improved when Republicans and Democrats work together. This is the platform for reform moving forward.
The White House has been cutting in its attacks on Senator Wyden for daring to talk policy when the president is fully focused on politics. The voters are tired of the political games. That time is over. We need to get serious about reform, and this is the most serious proposal yet.
President Obama himself has acknowledged that “if you look at the numbers, then Medicare in particular will run out of money and we will not be able to sustain that program no matter how much taxes go up. I mean, it’s not an option for us to just sit by and do nothing.”
Yet the president proposes we do nothing. If we stick with the Medicare cuts already in law, seniors will see Medicare payments to doctors cut to Medicaid rates, making it extremely difficult to find a doctor to see them, and 15 unelected bureaucrats at the Independent Payment Advisory Board will be put in charge of rationing care through deeper payment cuts. The president does not have a serious or credible solution.
Democrats seem most distressed that, while the Ryan-Wyden plan gets the policy right, it weakens their attacks against Republicans. The New York Times reports: “Democrats expressed concerns about the proposal based on policy and politics. A senior Democratic Congressional aide said, ‘This plan gives bipartisan political cover to Ryan and other Republicans against whom we have been waging a very successful political offensive.’”
White House communications director Dan Pfeiffer piled on:
The Wyden-Ryan scheme could, over time, cause the traditional Medicare program to ‘wither on the vine’ . . . At the end of the day, this plan would end Medicare as we know it for millions of seniors. Wyden-Ryan is the wrong way to reform Medicare.
Ryan’s office responded:
The President’s failure to offer credible solutions to the challenges facing Medicare is a disservice to seniors, a disservice to hardworking families, and a disservice to the next generation. A more glaring disappointment is the President’s failure to recognize a sincere effort by a Democrat and a Republican to come together and offer solutions, betraying his own rhetoric and his own commitment to those we have the privilege to serve. America deserves better.
You can see more details here. Watch for support to build on this serious and credible plan.
Posted on National Review Online: Critical Condition, Dec. 16, 2011.