House GOP Leaders Reiterate Support for Medicare Voucher Plan

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On Friday, House Republican leaders reiterated their commitment to their proposal to transform and privatize Medicare, the Washington Post reports.

In a statement, the group of six leaders -- which included House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) -- said the voucher plan "has been and remains the Republican position." The statement comes after a week of contrasting opinions among Republican caucus members and strong opposition from Democrats to the proposal (Kane/Rucker, Washington Post, 5/6).

Background

The Medicare overhaul -- a centerpiece of the House-approved GOP budget resolution (H Con Res 34) -- would provide beneficiaries with fixed, lump-sum vouchers to purchase private health insurance. It is part of House Budget Committee Chair Paul Ryan's (R-Wis.) broader budget blueprint that would reduce federal spending by $6 trillion over a decade and repeal and defund the federal health reform law (California Healthline, 5/6).

The disparate messaging on the Medicare reform proposal began on Wednesday when Cantor was forced to deny a report from earlier in the day that suggested that Republicans were preparing to abandon the proposal in order to reach a deal with Democrats on a deficit-reduction plan, Politico reports (Sherman, Politico, 5/6).

On Thursday, House Ways and Means Committee Chair Dave Camp (R-Mich.) suggested that the proposal is not politically feasible and likely would not result in reaching a budget agreement with Democrats, while Ryan himself stated that the GOP is "under no illusion" that it would reach an agreement with Democrats on the Medicare overhaul (California Healthline, 5/6).

House GOP Leaders' Statement on Medicare Plan

The statement issued on Friday -- which also was signed by Ryan -- said, "We are committed to our budget and to making the reforms necessary to grow our economy and create jobs, preserve and strengthen Medicare, and put our nation on a path to pay down the debt." The statement also noted that "everything must be on the table except increasing taxes," particularly on high-income individuals, which Democrats and President Obama favor (Politico, 5/6).

According to the Post, senior GOP aides explained that the disparate messaging on the Medicare reform plan was a "muddled message" disseminated by "a new and still evolving leadership" that is dealing with "its own internal rivalries." The Post reports that it is unclear whether the party's "public wavering" could spark a "broad revolt" among Republican voters (Washington Post, 5/6).

Public Opinion Experts Weigh In on Medicare Plan's Prospects

Two prominent public opinion analysts on Friday said the GOP's contrasting messages on the Medicare overhaul proposal could influence voters in the 2012 election season, CQ HealthBeat reports.

Bill McInturff, a leading GOP pollster, said he continues to believe that the proposal will overshadow the political debate on the federal health reform law as an election issue, and it would put Democrats "back on offense."

Meanwhile, Robert Blendon of Harvard University said that recent polls indicating strong public opposition to the Medicare plan, particularly among older voters, "gave the health issue back to the Democrats" (Reichard, CQ HealthBeat, 5/6).


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