During an appearance on Fox News Sunday, House Speaker John Beohner (R-OH) confirmed that Republicans won’t be backing away from plans to privatize the Medicare program this year — despite voters’ rejection of the plan — and will attempt to “pursue a bipartisan Medicare proposal in order to deflect Democratic attacks”:
WALLACE: Will the House pass a budget this year, and will it have serious entitlement reform in it again such as last year’s proposal by Paul Ryan for premium supports (ph) as a way to change and reform Medicare?
BOEHNER: Well, that was one option on how we could save Medicare. There are other ideas. Paul Ryan and Ron Wyden, the Democrat senator from Oregon, came up with a bipartisan proposal. The idea here is that we’ve got to make changes to Medicare. Otherwise, it will not be there for seniors who count on it. So we will do a serious budget. But also, remember this: on Tuesday, it will be 1,000 days since the United States Senate passed a budget. One thousand days, and they have yet to pass a budget. How do you deal with the long-term fiscal problems that we have if you refuse to come to an agreement on a budget?
WALLACE: So I want to make it clear, because there had been some thought that maybe because of the hits that you guys took last year, you weren’t going to pass a budget. You are going to pass a budget again this year?
BOEHNER: Of course we are.
House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI) echoed Boehner’s sentiment at the House Republican retreat in Baltimore on Friday, telling Reporters, “We’re not backing off on the kinds of reforms that we’ve advocated, but we have to write it.” “We’ve done more to normalize the idea of premium support than anything at all. We’re confident that these are the right policies. There’s an emerging bipartisan consensus that’s occurring on doing premium support reform to Medicare is the best way to save Medicare.”
Only one Democrat in the Senate, Ron Wyden (D-OR), has publicly embraced a watered down version of Ryan’s premium support proposal, but the plan — which would preserve traditional Medicare as an option for seniors and offer premium support credits that would do a better job of keeping up with health care costs — was rejected by Congressional Democrats and the White House. They argued that no version of premium support can achieve real savings without adverse consequences for beneficiaries, noting that the proposal could significantly shift costs to beneficiaries and fail to fully prevent private health insurance plans from attracting healthier beneficiaries and driving up premiums for those who remain in traditional Medicare.
In fact, there is very little evidence to suggest that private plans have or can do a better job of lowering spending. Medicare’s sheer size and bargaining clout have contributed to its greater success in controlling health care costs and the program has introduced market innovations and payment reforms that were later adopted by private industry. The Affordable Care Act will build on this structure by investing in new demonstration projects and payment reforms that will reward providers for delivering care more efficiently and — ultimately — lower the rate of growth in health care spending.