April 15th, 2011 – On tax day the US House of Representatives introduced House Resolution 34, which would take effect in 2012 and lead to substantial changes to Medicare, changing Medicare into a voucher program for future seniors
The partisan bill, sponsored by Republican, Paul Ryan of WI, passed in spite of a “No” vote by all Democrats and 4 Republicans. Rep. Ryan says the measure would save about $4.4 trillion from 2012 through 2021.
The resolution calls for giving Medicare recipients a yearly stipend that would be used to buy private insurance plans of their choice and would increase over time based on the rate of inflation. Critics say the plan would shift a greater share of health care costs to seniors over time.
Some Republicans think they can sell that as a way to preserve the program for future generations and to keep the country fiscally sound.
In the Medicare policy statement, drafters note that the Medicare trustees say the Medicare Hospital Insurance Trust Fund could be exhausted by 2020, and that projections show mandatory Medicare spending could eat up 14% of national gross domestic product by 2080.
“Failing to address this problem will leave millions of American seniors without adequate health security and younger generations burdened with enormous debt to pay for spending levels that cannot be sustained,” the drafters say.
“It is the policy of this resolution to protect those in and near retirement from any disruptions to their Medicare benefits and offer future beneficiaries the same health care options available to Members of Congress,” drafters say.
Analysts say voting for the measure (H Con Res 34), which is certain to die is in the Democratic Senate, is a gamble for Republicans. Polls consistently show that Americans do not support transforming Medicare, and a USA Today/Gallup poll on April 11 found that two-thirds of Republicans oppose the government making major changes to the program.
May 2011 Update – As expected, this bill appears to be dead in the water as the Senate shows no interest in taking on this political “hot potato.”