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New Senate GOP Medicare Budget Will "Just Have Figures in There"

March 17, 2015

This week, House and Senate Republicans will unveil their respective budget blueprints for fiscal year 2016. To Chuck Grassley (R-IA) of the Senate Budget Committee tell it, the Republican plan for Medicare should be among the most intriguing areas to inspect. That's because after 50 years of warning that Medicare would end the days "when America was free" because "nothing has had a greater negative effect on the delivery of health care" and therefore must "wither on the vine," Senator Grassley summed up his party's new plans for the program serving over 50 million American seniors. It is preferable, he said, to "just have figures in there."
That's a far cry from the Medicare rationing scheme 95 percent of Congressional Republicans voted for three years in a row.

Converting the traditional government health insurance program for the elderly into an under-funded voucher scheme that CBO analyses confirmed would dramatically shift health care costs onto seniors, Paul Ryan's House GOP budget made it awfully hard for the Republicans to claim theirs was the party that would "save Medicare." But now, The Hill reports, the GOP budget makers want to leave the dirty work of slashing Medicare under wraps:

The Senate GOP blueprint will not propose reforming Social Security, the political third rail that Ryan also avoided as former chairman of the House Budget Committee.
"From the standpoint of a budget, the less words of the English language you use, the better off you are," said Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), a senior member of the Budget panel.
When it comes to saving money in Medicare and Medicaid, Grassley said it's preferable to "just have figures in there" instead of spelling out specific reforms, as Ryan did.
One GOP senator said Ryan exceeded his authority as budget chairman when he sketched out a detailed vision for overhauling entitlement programs.
"He spent a lot of time working on it but he had no power to write Medicare reform," said the lawmaker, who argued the power to reform entitlement programs lies with the Senate Finance Committee and the House Ways and Means panel.
[Emphasis mine]

Despite their overwhelming support for Ryan's roadmap in the past, the GOP's best and brightest have good reason to fear it now. Facing their own members who are demanding increased defense spending and cutting taxes all while balancing the budget in 10 years, Medicare is one of the few big targets left for the budget axe. But Ryan's scheme wasn't just wildly unpopular; it used the same $760 billion in Medicare savings from Obamacare to help offset its gigantic tax cut windfall for the wealthy. Now, it appears, Senate Budget Committee Chairman Mike Enzi (R-WY) and House Budget Committee Chairman Tom Price (R-GA) will "just have figures in there."
Of course, the devil is in the details. And politically, it's much better for Republicans not to let the public see the devil at work. After all, as he admitted in 2009, Tom Price is the devil you know.

"While the stated goal remains noble, as a physician, I can attest that nothing has had a greater negative effect on the delivery of health care than the federal government's intrusion into medicine through Medicare."


Jon Perr
Jon Perr is a technology marketing consultant and product strategist who writes about American politics and public policy.

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