Republicans regroup on Medicare and budget plan

WASHINGTON Tue Apr 26, 2011 6:52pm EDT

House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI) speaks at a news conference held to unveil the House Republican budget blueprint, April 5, 2011. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI) speaks at a news conference held to unveil the House Republican budget blueprint, April 5, 2011.

Credit: Reuters/Kevin Lamarque

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Republican lawmakers privately discussed ways Tuesday to better explain a proposed overhaul of a popular healthcare program for the elderly after a number of testy exchanges with constituents.

"Some members are feeling the heat," a congressional aide said, referring to some voters' reaction to a proposal by Paul Ryan, chairman of the House of Representatives Budget Committee, to gradually privatize the Medicare program.

In a conference call, House Republicans, who are in the midst of a two-week recess, talked about how to assure those aged 55 and older that the recommended changes would not affect them, aides said.

Ryan, who wrote the budget plan that calls for ending the traditional government-run Medicare program for people 54 and younger, gave them pointers on how to present the Republican case for overhauling the program, aides said.

One aide quoted Ryan as telling House members that "our plan strengthens Medicare, protects today's seniors and (protects) Medicare for future generations."

Polls show the proposal is unpopular with many Americans, and Republican lawmakers are hearing an earful from their constituents, according to news accounts and video postings on the Internet of local town-hall meetings.

A meeting Tuesday in Orlando, Florida, by Representative Dan Webster turned raucous, with the crowd shouting down the first-term congressman and yelling at each other, according to an account by the Orlando Sentinel.

Ryan himself was booed at a meeting last week over his call to cut taxes for the wealthy as part of his plan to slash U.S. budget deficits by $4.4 trillion over 10 years.

The Ryan budget plan passed the Republican-led House earlier this month but has no chance of getting through the Democratic-led Senate. The battle over Medicare will likely extend through next year's presidential election. Democrats accuse Republicans of seeking to end the healthcare program to continue tax breaks for the wealthy.

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The Medicare proposal would give future retirees a federal subsidy to purchase healthcare coverage from private insurers. Anyone now 55 and older would still have access to traditional Medicare benefits.

Republican Allen West of Florida said he had been hearing from constituents both for and against the proposal.

"The individuals calling in opposition are being provided misinformation about what the budget does to reform Medicare," West said in an e-mail.

"The ones calling in support realize that if changes are not made today for individuals under the age of 55, the program will not be there when they retire."

Democrats and liberal interest groups have been running ads against a number of Republicans who voted for the Ryan plan.

So far, voter ire has not appeared to come near the public anger in 2009 over President Barack Obama's healthcare overhaul. That became a rally cry for the fiscally conservative Tea Party movement that helped Republicans win the House from Democrats in last year's congressional elections.

Representative Tim Griffin of Arkansas said constituents become more understanding when the overhaul is put into the context of the national debt now topping $14 trillion.

Griffin said he explained to constituents that he did not vote to end Medicare and that the program would go broke in nine years if nothing was done to fix it.

"If someone really wanted to end Medicare, they wouldn't propose a reform, they would do nothing," Griffin said.

(Additional reporting by Thomas Ferraro; Editing by Peter Cooney)

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Comments (9)
USAPragmatist wrote:
“The individuals calling in opposition are being provided misinformation about what the budget does to reform Medicare,” West said in an e-mail.

“The ones calling in support realize that if changes are not made today for individuals under the age of 55, the program will not be there when they retire.”

So I suppose using CBO figures is ‘misinformation’. I wont get it exactly right but I will be close enough…the CBO has said that if this budget was enacted seniors would get vouchers, yes it is a voucher program, that would pay for maybe half of their expected premiums.

Personally I would like Medicare/caid to stick around in it’s current benefit level, so let’s get rid of the private insurance companies instead of giving them more money to make a profit off of.

There is one simple fact of this budget that makes it all crystal clear; this budget proposes a tax cut for JUST the rich people. If they truly believed in their whole philosophy of low taxes stimulating growth thus increasing revenue, the tax cut would be for EVERYONE not just the top 5%. I hope to god Reid is smart enough to allow this budget to come to a vote in the Senate. Make these fools be on the record for voting for it. I bet the Republicans filibuster it though…LOL.

Also, why are these people on a two week vacation right now? I thought we where in a ‘crisis’?

Apr 26, 2011 7:10pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
seattlesh wrote:
I’d like to see the Republicans weasel their way out of this one. How do you sell, “We are going to eliminate Medicare for those under age 55 because we can’t afford it but we are going to cut taxes further for the wealthy by another 28% from 35% down to 25% and this will trim the deficit.” If Americans buy this we deserve to go down the tubes.

Apr 26, 2011 7:29pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
USAPragmatist wrote:
Here is some interesting reading for everyone…..http://www.cbo.gov/ftpdocs/121xx/doc12128/04-05-Ryan_Letter.pdf

I love how Ryan calls vouchers ‘premium support payments’. As the great Sarah Palin said ‘You can put lipstick on a pig and it still a pig’. Or maybe it was hockey moms, whatever, point is made.

Apr 26, 2011 7:37pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
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