Rep. Ryan Joins with Democratic Senator Wayden to Take Another Shot at Medicare Reform
Senior advocates say it is still a voucher system and only winners would be private insurance companies
Dec. 15, 2011 – Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI), who proposed converting Medicare to a system where senior citizens were given
vouchers to buy health care protection, has joined with an Oregon Democrat, Sen. Ron Wyden, to propose a new idea for changing the government
health care program. Senior advocates don’t seem to like the new plan better than Ryan’s first.
A news release by Wayden and Ryan called their plan “a a major advance in the effort to build a more secure future for
the millions of seniors who rely on Medicare.”
“Make no mistake, the Ryan-Wyden proposal is a voucher program designed to make people with Medicare spend more for their
health care so that the federal government spends less—with some bells and whistles that sound attractive, especially when key details are
left out, said Joe Baker, President, Medicare Rights Center.
The National Committee issued a statement that began with, “Senator Wyden and Congressman Ryan’s voucher plan offers a
slight twist on the same failed approach to Medicare reform that was originally offered by the Ryan legislation and rejected by the majority
of Americans – coupon care for seniors. The Ryan/Wyden voucher plan would shift a growing share of Medicare costs to beneficiaries without
reducing overall costs in the program while undermining traditional Medicare.”
The new report from Sen. Wyden and Rep. Ryan, titled “Guaranteed Choices to Strengthen Medicare and Health Security for
All: Bipartisan Options for the Future,” outlines a “bipartisan path forward” on expanding health care choices for seniors while preserving a
traditional Medicare plan as an option.
The Wyden-Ryan statement also says, “The report also proposes to give Americans under 65 more power and freedom to
purchase coverage they can carry with them into retirement.”
For more information:
Read Senator Wyden
and Representative Ryan’s op-ed in The Wall Street Journalhere.
Sen. Ron Wyden had this to say about the proposal:
“Paul Ryan shares my belief that we don’t hold election certificates to sit on the sidelines and that the only way to
tackle some of the big challenges facing our nation is to work together on big solutions,: said Sen. Wyden.
“Paul has also long-shared my view that the best way to hold down health costs is to give all Americans the ability to
hire and fire their insurance company. Guaranteeing a future for traditional Medicare is a big challenge and it is our hope that outlining
areas where Democrats and Republicans can reach agreement will help Congress rise to that challenge.”
Rep. Paul Ryan added, “Ron Wyden has been a consistently strong leader on market-based health insurance reform and a true
fighter when it comes to protecting seniors, so it was only natural that we should work together on a plan that saves Medicare from fiscal
threats, strengthens the program through expanded choice, and guarantees that all seniors will have the means and the freedom to purchase
coverage that is tailored to their needs.
“I am also proud to support Sen. Wyden’s efforts to empower small businesses and their employees, so that Americans under
65 can find better health care options that they can carry with them into retirement.
“Today’s report represents a major advance toward building the kind of bipartisan consensus that is going to be
absolutely critical as we seek to meet our nation’s greatest fiscal and economic challenges. By empowering seniors to use choice and
competition to control costs and improve quality, our plan ensures that Medicare remains a guaranteed, affordable option for all seniors for
decades to come.”
Max Richtman, President/CEO, The National Committee to Preserve Social Security & Medicare countered by saying, “The only
winner in this privatization plan would be private insurers who would be given the ability to cherry-pick the nation’s healthiest seniors from
the traditional Medicare program, allowing it to whither on the vine. America’s seniors understand how vital Medicare is to the health of our
nation and want to find ways to strengthen the program for future generations. But this proposal increases costs for everyone while ignoring
the core issue of rising health care costs. That’s not reform—that’s the end of Medicare as we know it.”
Fact Sheet on the Wyden-Ryan Plan Provided by Sponsors:
No changes for those in or near retirement.
Americans currently over the age of 55 would see no changes to the structure of their benefits, although they would be free to
opt into a private plan once the new Medicare Exchange was established in 2022.
More choices for seniors, including a
traditional Medicare plan: Starting in 2022, Medicare would begin
offering seniors a choice among Medicare-approved private plans competing alongside a traditional Medicare plan on a Medicare
Premium support ensures affordable coverage:
The plan would introduce a “premium support” system that would
empower seniors to choose either a traditional Medicare plan or a Medicare-approved private plan.
More help for those who need it:
Low-income seniors who qualify for Medicaid would continue to have Medicaid pay for their out-of-pocket expenses, while
other low-income seniors who do not qualify for Medicaid would receive fully funded savings accounts to help offset any
increased out-of-pocket costs.
Less help for those who don’t:
Wealthier seniors who need help least would see their assistance reduced.
Strong consumer protections to safeguard the
Medicare guarantee: This reformed Medicare program would include
some of the toughest consumer protections in American government:
All health plans that participate in the
Medicare Exchange would be required to offer benefits that are at least the actuarial equivalent of those provided
by the traditional Medicare plan.
Premium-support payments would be
risk-adjusted to ensure that those with greater health needs are guaranteed affordable coverage.
Participating plans cannot refuse coverage
based on pre-existing conditions, nor can they charge discriminatory rates based on health status.
All plans would be overseen by the Centers for
Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), which would be empowered to review plan benefits and review all marketing
materials to ensure transparency and fairness.
Transparency, Competition Work as Powerful
Cost Controls: Program growth would be determined by the
competitive bidding process – with transparency, choice and competition forcing providers to reduce costs and improve quality
Seniors would receive clear and easy-to-understand information on what plan they are currently enrolled in, the projected
cost of that plan, what other plans in their area will be offered, and what the federal premium-support contribution will
Allowing seniors to choose the plan that works best for them would force providers to compete for the patient’s business,
thus curbing the unsustainable rise of health care costs that is threatening both Medicare and the affordability of health
care for all.
Allowing private plans to compete directly with a traditional Medicare plan would strengthen both by creating new
incentives for plans to develop better delivery models and design better ways to care for patients with chronic illnesses.
Cap on Growth Serves as a Backstop:
However, exceeding the cap would not trigger across-the-board bureaucratic cuts or higher premiums. Instead, Congress
would be forced to do its job: Determine why the costs exceeded the cap and fix the problem.
A Proposal to Strengthen the Health Care
Marketplace: Just as Medicare reform would give seniors more
power to choose, reform is needed to free small businesses and individuals from restrictions that inhibit choice and control
in health coverage.
Any small business with up to 100 workers
would be able to offer its employees a free choice option so that they could use the amount that their employer
contributes toward their health coverage to purchase their own health insurance.
The cost of the free choice option would be
fully tax deductible to the employer, just like employer-provided health coverage.
Allowing individuals to keep one insurance
product as they transition from their working years into retirement would ease seniors’ transition into Medicare
while giving small businesses and their workers more choices and freedom.
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