KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Wyden-Ryan Medicare Plan Draws Political Responses, Analyses

Democrats and their allies blasted the proposal, but the reception from the right was more positive.  

NPR: Wyden-Ryan Medicare Plan Shakes Up Politics More Than Policy
There's not much that's new in the Medicare proposal just unveiled by Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.). So why is it getting so much attention? One word. No, not plastics. Politics! (Rovner, 12/15).

Kaiser Health News: Analysis: Wyden-Ryan Plan Could Neutralize Medicare In 2012 Election
Even with just two congressional supporters, a new Medicare overhaul plan could have big implications for next year's congressional election. Indeed, it could neutralize a political problem that has been plaguing Republicans since April, argues Robert Blendon, a professor of health policy and political analysis at the Harvard School of Public Health (Werber Serafini, 12/15).

The Associated Press: White House Blasts New Medicare Plan By GOP's Ryan
White House spokesmen Thursday blasted a new bipartisan plan to overhaul Medicare, saying it would undermine the health care program for seniors and disabled people, leaving it to "wither on the vine." That prompted the plan's Democratic co-author, Sen. Ron Wyden of Oregon, to fire back, saying critics are misrepresenting the proposal without reading it (Alonso-Zaldivar, 12/15).

The Hill: Obama Opposes Ryan-Wyden Plan
The White House has compared House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan's (R-Wis.) new Medicare plan to Newt Gingrich's old ideas. The plan from Ryan and Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) is "the wrong way to reform Medicare," White House Communications Director Dan Pfeiffer said in a news release. Pfeiffer said the new plan "would end Medicare as we know it for millions of seniors." He invoked Gingrich's 1995 statement that Medicare would "wither on the vine" when faced with competition from private insurers (Baker, 12/15).

The Hill: Dems, Allies Firmly Reject Paul Ryan's New Medicare Reform Plan
Democrats and their allies quickly united against the Medicare proposal introduced by Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) and Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.). As he introduced the plan Thursday morning, Wyden insisted that there was plenty for Democrats to support. But lawmakers, the White House and healthcare interest groups took a hard line against the proposal, even linking it to former House Speaker Newt Gingrich (Baker, 12/15).

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Ryan-Wyden Medicare Plan Gets Better Reception On Right
Eight months after House Republicans approved his controversial plan to overhaul Medicare, GOP Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan rolled out a softer version of Medicare reform Thursday, partnering with Senate Democrat Ron Wyden of Oregon in an effort to show "that a bipartisan consensus . . . can be formed." But the reaction was more positive among Republicans than Democrats….Ryan and Wyden are touting their Medicare proposal as a hybrid of conservative and progressive ideas aimed at preserving the safety net, while putting the program on a more affordable path. But whether it can be the basis for common ground on a hugely polarizing issue is far from clear (Gilbert, 12/15).

ABC: Dem Says White House 'Aware' Of His Medicare Compromise
Democratic Sen. Ron Wyden says he's joined forces with Republican Rep. Paul Ryan on a Medicare proposal to elevate the discourse about health care beyond a shouting match, despite the chance that the compromise might thwart his party's plans to attack the GOP during this campaign year. The plan combines the current government-sponsored health program for older Americans  with private-sector options.  But by working with Ryan, a fiscal hawk in the Republican party, Wyden could blunt an effort by Democrats to portray Republicans  as working against older Americans (Negrin, 12/15).

Political Pro: Ryan-Wyden A Hit At Republican Debate
The Republican praise for the new Paul Ryan-Ron Wyden Medicare plan continued in Iowa on Thursday night, when both Newt Gingrich and Mitt Romney again gave their blessings to it — and Gingrich stuck to his "no negativity pledge" by giving Romney credit as well. "Now Gov. Romney came up with a very good variation on the Ryan plan that allowed for the maintenance of the current system. Paul has adopted that and, in what I think was a very brave act by Sen. Ron Wyden, you now have a Democrat willing to co-sponsor the bill," Gingrich said at the debate in Sioux City (Nocera, 12/15).

The Fiscal Times: Paul Ryan Flips after Medicare Flop
Choosing a private plan would no longer be mandatory; traditional Medicare would still be an option. Overall costs for Medicare would be capped at the same level now mandated by the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (dubbed Obamacare by its opponents), not at the far lower rate of inflation Ryan used in his previous plan. And his latest plan would forbid premium increases for low- and moderate-income seniors unless Congress intervened (Goozner, 12/16).

Meanwhile, some reports examined the plan's policy details -

Politico Pro: Wyden-Ryan: Beyond Medicare Advantage
At first glance, the Medicare proposal by Sen. Ron Wyden and Rep. Paul Ryan bears striking similarities to the Medicare Advantage program seniors have been using for years. Through Medicare Advantage, many seniors can already get insurance from private, Medicare-approved plans, as Wyden-Ryan proposes. In fact, Medicare spent about one-fifth of its money on MA plans this year for coverage of about a quarter of all Medicare enrollees — almost 12 million people (Norman, 12/15).

CQ HealthBeat: Premium Support That Doesn't Stick it To Seniors — Believable Boast?
Sen. Ron Wyden emphasized early Thursday that a new Medicare "premium support" plan he and House Budget Committee Chairman Paul D. Ryan are championing would protect seniors from having to pick up the full tab if Medicare cost increases exceed an annual cap they would put on Uncle Sam's contribution to the program. But Wyden, D-Ore., and Ryan, R-Wis., were unable to specify how they would be able to keep that from happening. That part of the proposal hasn't been fleshed out, they said (Reichard, 12/15).

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