Still ending Medicare as we know it…

GOP Budget Committee Chair Rep. Paul Ryan came out with another proposal today that fundamentally undermines the guarantee and protections in Medicare. It wouldn’t be notable, other than he did it with Democratic Senator Ron Wyden.

This shouldn’t be surprising: Senator Wyden has always gone his own way on health policy, especially if it was something that could be labelled “bipartisan.” Unlike others, I was never a fan of his version of health reform that he co-authored with Republican Sen. Bennett of Utah–and thankfully, it really wasn’t the basis for the Affordable Care Act; even the small provision that Sen. Wyden stuck in for a narrow slice of the population get stripped out in a more recent budget deal. But his efforts served a political functions, which was to get GOP Senators to even have the conversation about health reform–until it was toxic, so much so that Sen. Bennett was denied his shot at re-election.

But I don’t see any merit in this Ryan-Wyden proposal. Just read Jonathan Cohn, Ezra Klein, and Austin Frakt to understand why this makes no sense as a policy or as a political proposal.

The White House, and key members of Congressional delegation (who happen to be from California), agree, and pushed back hard today. From The Hill:

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) charged that the plan shows Republicans want Medicare to “wither on the vine,” quoting remarks Gingrich made in 1995 about how Medicare would fare if faced with competition from private insurers. The White House also invoked Gingrich’s quote in a statement opposing the Wyden-Ryan proposal.

“We are concerned that Wyden-Ryan, like Congressman Ryan’s earlier proposal, would undermine, rather than strengthen, Medicare,” White House Communications Director Dan Pfeiffer said in a statement. “The Wyden-Ryan scheme could, over time, cause the traditional Medicare program to ‘wither on the vine’ because it would raise premiums, forcing many seniors to leave traditional Medicare and join private plans.”

Some congressional Democrats were upset with Wyden, saying he risked providing cover for Ryan’s unpopular Medicare plan.

Rep. Pete Stark (Calif.), the top Democrat on the Ways and Means Health subcommittee, said the substance of the new proposal is no better than Ryan’s earlier effort. “Despite Wyden’s claims otherwise, the Wyden-Ryan plan ends Medicare as we know it, plain and simple,” Stark said in a statement.

Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) said he had not fully reviewed the proposal but that the premium support model, in general, often threatens seniors with higher costs. “I have serious doubts about what they’re proposing,” Waxman said.

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