GOP Signals Willingness To Forgo Voucher Plan for Medicare Program

TOPIC ALERT:

On Thursday, House Republican leaders acknowledged that their proposal to turn Medicare into a voucher program is not politically feasible and likely would not result in reaching a budget agreement with Democrats, the New York Times reports.

Lawmakers from both parties met for a negotiating session led by Vice President Joe Biden about reducing the deficit and raising the debt ceiling (Hulse/Calmes, New York Times, 5/5).

Background

The Medicare overhaul is part of the House-approved GOP fiscal year 2012 budget resolution (H Con Res 34). The budget blueprint -- offered by House Budget Committee Chair Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) -- would privatize Medicare by providing beneficiaries with fixed, lump-sum vouchers to purchase private health insurance.

It also would give states fixed annual block grants of $11,000 per Medicaid beneficiary to use as they choose (California Healthline, 4/29).

Meeting Details

After meeting with Biden and other lawmakers, House Ways and Means Committee Chair Dave Camp (R-Mich.) suggested that the Democrat-led Senate would not accept the Medicare proposal. Camp said that he is now "interested in solutions," instead of a "bill that the Senate shows no interest in" (New York Times, 5/5).

House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) said the decision to step back from the plan is "a recognition of the political realities we face" (Taylor/Alonso-Zaldivar, AP/Washington Times, 5/5).

Ryan said Republicans are "under no illusion" they will reach an agreement with Democrats on the Medicare overhaul. Instead, he said, House Republicans would consider a deal to raise the legal limit for government borrowing in exchange for various spending cuts. He said that even though the GOP will not get everything they want in deficit talks, they at least want "a good down payment" (Rucker et al., Washington Post, 5/5).

House GOP Leaders Say Medicare Overhaul Still 'On the Table'

Despite being open to alternative spending strategies, Boehner said the Medicare and Medicaid reform plans in Ryan's budget still are "on the table." He noted, "Nothing is off the table except raising taxes" (Nather, Politico, 5/5).

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) agreed, saying that nothing has been ruled out completely (Schatz, CQ Today, 5/5).

Camp said that for the GOP to forgo the Medicare proposal entirely, Democrats would have to come up with viable plans to address long-term fiscal problems. Camp noted, "If Democrats don't like [vouchers], fine," adding, "But come to the table with something else. Not something that tinkers around the edges and buys the Medicare program another year or two" (Kenen, CQ Today, 5/5).

50 Senators Send Letter Opposing Medicare Plan

Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) on Thursday said that he joined 48 other Democratic senators and Sen. Bernard Sanders (I-Vt.) in sending a letter to President Obama opposing the GOP Medicare proposal.

The letter states that the plan would "throw seniors into the private market with no more than an insufficient voucher to offset the rising cost of private health insurance." It also commended Obama for opposing the plan (CQ HealthBeat, 5/5).


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