Democrats Question Wyden’s Decision To Join Hands With Ryan On Premium Support

Some Democrats are questioning Sen. Ron Wyden’s (D-OR) decision to join forces with Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) to propose a bipartisan Medicare premium support plan, arguing that his involvement offers Ryan’s vision greater legitimacy. As Rep. Jim McDermott (D-WA) told Bloomberg this morning, “I don’t know why Ron Wyden is giving cover” to Ryan. Other Democratic aides piled on: “For starters, this is bad policy and a complete political loser,” an aide told Talking Points Memo’s Brian Beutler. “On top of the terrible politics, they even admit that it dismantles Medicare but achieves no budgetary savings while doing so — the worst of all worlds. Thanks for nothing.” During an event unveiling the proposal at the Bipartisan Policy Center this morning, however, Wyden tried to argue that Ryan and other Republicans would still have to own their votes for the GOP budget, which aims to phase out traditional Medicare. “No one ducks their previous votes or their past statements,” Wyden The Hill’s Sam Baker.

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Rep. Pete Stark (D-CA) weighs in: “Despite Wyden’s claims otherwise, the Wyden-Ryan plan ends Medicare as we know it, plain and simple. If these two get their way, senior citizens’ health coverage will depend on what big insurance offers and what seniors — most of them on modest, fixed incomes — can afford. That combination will jeopardize health and economic security for seniors.”

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The White House also comes out against the proposal: “We are concerned that Wyden-Ryan, like Congressman Ryan’s earlier proposal, would undermine, rather than strengthen, Medicare,” said White House Communications Director Dan Pfeiffer. “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. And it would shift costs from the government to seniors. 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.”