KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Republican 2013 Budget Plan Includes Major Medicare Changes

The Wisconsin Republican's proposal places greater limits on federal spending for Medicare than last year's blueprint.

Kaiser Health News: New Ryan Budget Would Transform Medicare, Medicaid
The plan would gradually raise the eligibility age to 67 by 2034 and cap Medicare spending growth at Gross Domestic Product growth plus 0.5 percentIt would turn Medicaid over to the states in the form of a federal block grant, "constraining Medicaid's growing cost trajectory by $810 billion over ten years," according to the document (Werber Serafini, 3/20).

Kaiser Health News posted documents related to the Ryan budget plan.

In addition, KHN has video clips of the Tuesday news conference on Capitol Hill, at which House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, R-Wis., as well as Rep. Tom Price, R-Ga., said that the sweeping changes proposed to Medicare in the GOP 2013 budget would protect the program (3/20).

CBS News: GOP House Budget Sets Up Next Spending, Medicare Fights
As he did in last year's proposed budget, Ryan once again proposes significant changes to Medicare. ... This year, Ryan's plan is modeled after a bipartisan proposal (which Ryan crafted with Democratic Sen. Ron Wyden of Oregon) -- though it still calls for significant changes many Democrats are likely to strongly oppose. Starting in 2023, the plan would give seniors subsidies to purchase either private insurance or traditional, government-run insurance on an exchange (Condon, 3/20).

The Washington Post: GOP Budget Plan Cuts Deeply Into Domestic Programs, Reshapes Medicare, Medicaid
House Republicans laid down a bold but risky election-year marker Tuesday, unveiling a budget proposal that will reduce the debt by reshaping Medicare and Medicaid and cut deeply into other domestic programs, while reshuffling the tax code to lower tax rates. ... That path includes proposals to turn Medicaid spending into a block grant program. ... On Medicare ... Ryan once again proposes to offer seniors retiring in future years payments with which to buy private health insurance coverage (Helderman, 3/20).

The Wall Street Journal: GOP Budget Calls for Spending Cuts
The budget, which sets spending for the 2013 fiscal year, which starts Oct. 1, also takes aim at a variety of high-profile programs. It recommends repealing President Barack Obama's health plan, eventually eliminating Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, and turning Medicaid and the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program, formerly known as food stamps, into block-grant programs. Medicaid growth would be cut by $810 billion over 10 years (Bendavid, 3/20).

The Associated Press/Boston Herald: House GOP Unveils Budget Blueprint
To deal with the influx of retiring Baby Boomers, the GOP budget reprises a controversial approach to overhauling Medicare that would switch the program — for those under 55 today — from a traditional "fee for service" framework in which the government pays doctor and hospital bills to a voucherlike "premium support" approach in which the government subsidizes purchases of health insurance (3/20).

Bloomberg/San Franciso Chronicle: House Republicans Release Lower-Spending Budget With Tax Cuts The proposal reiterates Republicans' call last year for overhauling Medicare, though with some changes reflecting a compromise plan Ryan of Wisconsin has since written with Senator Ron Wyden, an Oregon Democrat. It would offer seniors, starting in 2023, subsidies they could use to buy private health insurance or use in Medicare. Either way, benefits would be capped, which would be a major change in how the open-ended program now operates (Faler, 3/20).

Reuters/The Baltimore Sun: Republican Budget Targets Tax Reforms, Medicare
The Republican budget achieves much of its deficit-reduction goals through savings gained by dismantling Obama's 2010 healthcare reform law and by turning social safety net programs like food stamps and the Medicaid program for the poor into block grants for states. After proposing last year to convert Medicare into a voucher-like program ... , Ryan has modified his reforms in a bid to blunt criticism that it would shift too many costs onto the elderly. The new plan offers so-called premium support to allow beneficiaries to purchase either traditional Medicare or competing plans through a government-run exchange (Lawder, 3/20).

Reuters: Factbox: House Republican Budget Medicare Revamp
Here are some details of the plan outlined by House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan. It is similar to the privatization proposal set out in his budget plan last year but this year's proposal includes elements of a compromise Ryan worked out with Democratic Senator Ron Wyden. Ryan argues that the current Medicare program is financially unsustainable (2/20).

ABC News: House Republicans Unveil New Budget Blueprint
One suggestion Democrats are likely to resist is the repeal of the Affordable Care Act. House Democrats have mounted opposition to the budget, instead highlighting the two-year anniversary of the president’s health care law. Ryan partnered with Democratic Sen. Ron Wyden of Oregon late last year to craft an alternative to Medicare that would let beneficiaries use premiums to buy into traditional Medicare as well as opt into private insurance (Parkinson, 3/20).

The Hill: Ryan Budget To Cut $5.3 Trillion In Spending Over Next Decade
[T]he new Ryan budget offers a modified version of the controversial Medicare plan from last year. Whereas last year's plan moved all future seniors into a privatized system, where the government subsidized premium payments, the current plan keeps traditional Medicare as an option. It also has new protections for low-income seniors and restrictions that could keep the traditional plan from being saddled with only the sickest patients. It is based on a models developed by Ryan and Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and long championed by Budget Committee member Rep. Tom Price (R-Ga.). Despite Wyden's support, Democrats are already pouncing on the new Medicare proposal. A protest is planned by seniors groups at a Tuesday morning speech by Ryan at the American Enterprise Institute (Wasson, 3/20).

Politico: Ryan Plan Triggers Budget Wars Anew
After the brutal political reaction last year, he has refined his Medicare reform ideas to move more toward the center. And his greater emphasis on long-range tax reform will give rank-and-file Republicans something else to talk about on the campaign trail. But the basic math still rests heavily on achieving an additional $5.3 trillion in savings from federal spending over the next 10 years, half of which would be healthcare-related, including the total elimination of Obama’s signature reforms (Rogers, 3/20).

This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.