Republican rift widens over Medicare cuts

WASHINGTON/CHICAGO Mon May 16, 2011 5:22pm EDT

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

Credit: Reuters/Kevin Lamarque

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WASHINGTON/CHICAGO (Reuters) - A Republican rift over the government health program for older Americans widened on Monday as Congressman Paul Ryan hit back at criticism of his Medicare overhaul plan from within his own party.

In a speech to the Economic Club of Chicago, Ryan said Republican presidential hopeful Newt Gingrich was "missing the mark" on what the proposed cost-cutting revamp does.

Gingrich on Sunday called Ryan's plan "radical," saying there were other ways to save money for the program that faces increasing financial strains from rising costs and aging baby boomers, those born between 1946 and 1964.

"I hardly think it's anything radical," Ryan said. "It's basically common sense and using solutions that have proven to work, that have been supported by Democrats and Republicans in the past, and more importantly, according to the budget experts, it saves Medicare."

Republicans are facing voter anger over the proposal that essentially would turn the fee-for-service Medicare into a program of vouchers that the elderly would use to purchase subsidized health insurance from private insurers.

Gingrich, who is seeking the Republican nomination for president, on NBC's "Meet the Press" on Sunday said of the Ryan plan: "I don't think right-wing social engineering is any more desirable than left-wing social engineering. I don't think imposing radical change from the right or the left is a very good way for a free society to operate."

The criticism came as Republicans press for spending cuts in Medicare and other government programs in exchange for their support for raising the U.S. credit limit. The United States effectively reached the legal limits of its borrowing authority on Monday and needs an increase in the $14.3 trillion debt cap by August 2 in order to keep paying its bills.

Gingrich "has undermined the Republicans at the negotiating table for the budget," said David Kendall, an analyst with the Democratic centrist think tank Third Way. "Republican leaders can no longer present a united front over making major changes to Medicare."

Michael Franc of the conservative Heritage Foundation, said the comment by Gingrich, a former speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, "certainly gives a talking point to the critics" of the Ryan plan.

But he said the public may be ready to accept some changes to Medicare as part of a deal that reduces the $1.4 trillion deficit and future debt.

Indeed, House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi said on CNBC on Monday that Medicare was on the table in deficit talks.

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Comments (19)
seattlesh wrote:
Suddenly the Wisconsin golden boy is finding that that odd smell that has been following him around is his own. When Republicans raise taxes on the wealthy at least to Clinton era rates and cut the military budget in half we’ll talk. In the meantime Paul Ryan, we will just say NO.

May 16, 2011 6:51pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
fred5407 wrote:
I believe Medicare changes have to be done by a series of limitations to the users and from the providers. There cannot be an open check book for benefits, nor can their be endless rises in service costs from the providers. The political scare tactics have to stop or the the scare people will have to spend time in jail figuring out how to stop telling lies. I believe everyone on Medicare would have to agree to conditions of a living will that would limit suffering. If someone wants to extend the suffering time let them buy private insurance. I believe that the hospital daily rates and service fees plus rates charged by doctors will have to be indexed to 1970 rates.

May 16, 2011 7:06pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
KimoLee wrote:
I am quite certain the U.S. could handle Medicare, Social Security, and re-builging infrastructure if our leaders weren’t such war mongers. The military budget needs to be cut big time! Put it on the table darn it and chop away.

Pretty soon a lot of young Americans are going to be convinced that Social Security and Medicare will be gone by the time they retire. If I am not going to collect either, I CERTAINLY DO NOT NEED TO PAY IN TODAY. It certainly is not my job to pay for a bunch of baby boomers and then be left out in the cold.

So politicians listen up – You better figure out a solution. Younger generations most certainly expect to collect that which they have been paying into for decades. And you can bet that after “multiple recessions” we are going to need it more than those boomers ever will. Boomers are a bunch of whiners that had it really darn good economically after WWII. Far better than most! Upcoming generations are “really” going to need these programs.

May 16, 2011 9:02pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
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