The Truth About Medicare Reform: Rep. Paul Ryan’s Plan

David Williams

September 5, 2012

(This is the second in a two part series on Medicare reform) Earlier this week, the Taxpayers Protection Alliance posted a blog explaining President Obama’s plan to reform Medicare.  In this post, we will discuss an alternative plan that Representative Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.), has proposed. Unlike the president’s proposal, empowerment of individuals is the centerpiece of the Ryan’s plan to reform Medicare.  Whereas Obama’s reform measures seek to increase government’s powers at every turn and support its overreach in every aspect of our lives, the Ryan plan recognizes that individuals are best suited to determine their health care needs.  While this statement should appear obvious, the president and many members of Congress fundamentally disagree.

Unlike the federal government, an individual has a clear incentive and interest in making wise decisions about how to spend one’s money on health care.  The Ryan Medicare plan embraces this concept and includes a reform called premium support.  Premium support provides seniors with the ability to choose their health care plan.  With more options of health care coverage to choose, increased competition among health care providers will result.  As competition increases, not only will seniors be able to enjoy an improved quality of health care, they will also benefit from lower costs.  Additionally, this Medicare reform proposal will encourage the next generation of retirees to begin considering private coverage.

Despite what President Obama may claim, the Ryan plan does not rob seniors of their benefits. Rather the Ryan plan leaves seniors with the option of traditional Medicare coverage.  In fact, the phrase “if you like your plan, you can keep it” that the president once used to sell his Obamacare, actually best describes the Romney plan to reform Medicare.  Given the complex issue of health care coverage, it’s important that all, not just seniors, possess the ability to choose the best coverage to meet their health needs.   This is the antithesis of being forced to accept a government bureaucrat’s pre-determined, one-size-fits-most health care plan.

President Obama has also attempted to undermine and discredit the benefits of Ryan’s  Medicare reform proposal by claiming it will not only rob seniors, but also privatize and destroy Medicare as we know it.  But that’s simply not the case. In fact as The New York Times has recently reported, “Even as President Obama accuses Mitt Romney and Representative Paul D. Ryan of trying to privatize and ‘voucherize’ Medicare, his administration crows about the success of private health plans in delivering prescription drug benefits and other services to Medicare beneficiaries.”  The fact that the president recognizes the benefits private health care plans can offer does much to discredit his arguments in favor of augmenting the federal government’s role in Medicare.

In spite of every things else, at least we can all agree or at least should all be able to agree that “In the long run failing to curb the costs of the health care system will hurt everyone as tax revenue and future wage increases are siphoned to pay for it.” But that doesn’t mean that reforms to Medicare will necessarily fix this issue or for that matter make it worse.  In order to ensure that health care costs do not continue on their current trajectory, reforms must include measures that will empower individuals and reduce the power of bureaucrats to dictate personal decisions affecting your health care.

There should be no question about which plan will achieve this.  In a column on Medicare that Deroy Murdock recently wrote in National ReviewMurdock quoted an op-ed Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Ryan wrote for Wall Street Journal. Sen. Wyden and Rep. Ryan set the record straight about their Medicare reform plan: “By giving seniors the power to choose among competing plans, our plan would add a level of cost control, customization, and quality to the health security of older Americans that today’s Medicare is not in a position to achieve.”

Choice is something that members of both parties should embrace.