Wyden's Twist on Medicare

Paulie Brading

Senator Ron Wyden and House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan unveiled a new approach to saving the federal health program known as Medicare at a breakfast this morning hosted by the Bipartisan Policy Center. Senator Wyden has a record on working in a bipartisan manner searching for solutions, especially for seniors. Wyden has been a champion of seniors since he began the Oregon chapter of the Gray Panthers over thirty years ago.

The lawmakers wrote, "We are two Members of Congress who firmly believe in the iron-glad guarantee of the Medicare program, and this belief has informed our understanding of the unacceptable risk to our seniors' health and retirement security if we don't come together as a country and take action to save and strengthen Medicare. We realize our absolute responsibility to preserve the Medicare guarantee of affordible, accessible health care for everyone of the nation's seniors for decades to come."

Reviewing several blogs show Wyden experiencing some surliness from his fellow Democrats for working with, of all people, Paul Ryan.

Matt Miller of The Washington Post wrote, "With this new plan, Ryan has signed onto the idea of subsidizing people to buy coverage from well-regulated health exchanges that must take all comers and charge them similar premiums regardless of health status." Miller continues, "If that framework sounds familiar, it should - it basically descibes the dreaded Obamacare!"

Did Wyden pull Ryan into universial healthcare? Ryan now supports the Affordable Care Act model.

"Wyden has put Ryan in a box where he can be forced to admit there's no way to get our long-term fiscal house in order without higher taxes as the boomers age," states Miller. He goes on, "If the media are smart and persistent enough to to force the question of Ryan's endless debt, Wyden will have set in motion a Republican "uncle" on taxes that could fundementally alter public debate in the years ahead."

This is very complex and captivating at the same time.

Your take.

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    As with everything related to health care, this is really complex. I'm probably going to be blowing up my weekend to brush up on Medicare, Medicare Advantage, and study this plan.

    As a first blush reaction, I think it's important to note that just eight months after Paul Ryan committed himself to abolishing Medicare, Ron Wyden has gotten him to agree to protecting Medicare forever.

    That's a huge flip-flop from Ryan -- and you can see that in the reaction from the hard-core right. They're freaking out, saying that Ryan sold 'em out.

    As I learned during the last two health care episodes - first, Wyden's 2006 Healthy Americans Act; and second, the 2009 health care reform fight - health care is really, really complex. There are a lot of moving parts, and a single adjective can make a huge difference in the policy outcome. (For example, one that I'm seeing here - a distinction between "GDP" and "nominal GDP". If you don't understand that, you're not seeing the whole picture.)

    So, I'm going to reserve judgment for now. Time to dig into the details.

    Full disclosure: My firm built Ron Wyden's campaign website. I speak only for myself.

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      Senator Wyden is clearly ignoring the the resolution passed by Democratic Party of Multnomah County in favor of a SINGLE PAYER solution.

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      A couple more notable quotes:


      “For starters, this is bad policy and a complete political loser,” this [Democratic Congressional] aide said. “On top of the terrible politics, they even admit that it dismantles Medicare but achieves no budgetary savings while doing so — the worst of all worlds. Thanks for nothing.”

      Romney Campaign Statement (c/o Slate)

      We are very pleased to see that Congressman Ryan has introduced a Medicare reform proposal that aligns so closely with what Governor Romney proposed last month. This bipartisan plan proves once again that Governor Romney has thoughtful, workable solutions to the looming entitlement crisis.
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      I will tend to give Ezra's views great weight. Important to note that in his final paragraph, he doesn't say he's opposed - though he starts out skeptical.

      That leaves open the question, of course, of whether Wyden-Ryan is good policy. I want to spend more time with the proposal before rendering a judgment on that. But we have tried competition-based structures before — the Federal Employee Health Benefits Program, Medicare Advantage, Massachusetts, etc — and they’ve never lived up to the high hopes of advocates. I hope that we just haven’t cracked the code yet, as I think there are important reasons to prefer a competition-based system to one in which the government simply sets prices. But I’m not optimistic.

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      Any list of health care policy sites would be incomplete without these folks.

      While there are many questions still to be answered, the bipartisan nature of this proposal is not something to sneeze at. No meaningful reform (including single payer) is possible without going after providers. Look at Vermont, they estimate most of their savings will come from provider payment & practice reform. That kind of action on a national scale is impossible so long as this issue is mired in trench warfare.

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    I find the whole thing deeply unsettling, so I look forward to someone digging in and finding out what it actually means. Early reports are not good.

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    I guess since everyone on both sides seems to think this is an awful idea, then that means, by typical beltway-think, this plan is a good one.

    I honestly don't know. But the way a lot of people are jumping all over it simply because it means talking with Paul Ryan just leaves a really sour taste in my mouth.

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      How about using a simple minded democrat like Ron Wyden to make an otherwise completely fractured Republican party look a little bit sane? For the sake of votes no doubt - all of the frontrunners in their circus debate last night praised the relationship. Maybe Wyden is being blackmailed like so many others.

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    Keeping it simple says: A bill to require that all purchases from big Pharma would be at the lowest cost through bulk purchases.

    The authorization for defense spends two billion dollars per day. As Rep. DeFazio has pointed out the Pentagon (originally intended to be a library by FDR after WW2) says they could not withstand an audit by 2014. Maybe by 2017.

    On Sept. 10, 2001 Defense Sec. Rumsfeld held a news conference wherein he admitted that the Pentagon had spent more than three trillion dollars that it could not explain.

    My point is that the quest for a bi-partisan solution on health and security for the 99% begins with removing Wyden, Ryan, etc.

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    More backlash for Wyden than Ryan on their proposal. Ryan is getting a lukewarm reception from the R's and Wyden is hearing from the White House and top Dems on just how unhappy they are with his twist on Medicare.

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    White House comments at briefing today here and in Washington Post here expressing harsh concerns.

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    Consider this, love it or hate it: Ryan is up for re-election this year. As a Tea Party candidate, he was already on shaky ground before allowing this apparently bipartisan announcement to surface. And in so doing, he has no doubt further alienated much of his base. Wyden by contrast, is not up for re-election until 2016. His seat is safe for another 4+ years, and as such, he can afford to posture and lead people down the garden path, only to suddenly change direction as they blindly stumble off of a cliff.

    In any case, this proposal is slated to wait until after the election before undergoing any serious consideration, and based upon the fickle views of those who put Ryan into office, this just may be the nail in the coffin that carries him out of it.

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      Political Ju-Jitsu as Thom Hartmann loves to imply. (Though I was surprised that such a notion never came up during his comments on this issue today.)

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    Analysis by Kaiser Heal News writer - "Wyden-Ryan Plan Could Neutralize Medicare In 2012 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."

    Wonderful news as we prepare for the 2012 Campaign. I'm sure all the Democratic candidates appreciate this move.

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    While this is a year old now, it has the data and the comparisons that reinforce (as though that were necessary) the only answer: single payer, universal health care.


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    I think Mr. Wyden has delivered himself a grievous self-inflicted political wound from which there will be no recovery any time soon. When you spit on your core constituency and the values that defined your political career and put you into office, you have permanently damaged your career.

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    Nice try Paulie, but no cigar. You sound like a hold-out from the Obama voters who insisted he was playing chess and we just didn't get it. Your analysis of the Wyden/Ryan issue is what is known as tortured logic. Give it up. Wyden needs to be pressured into getting out of this arrangement with Ryan, who is a verifiably psycho/ayn rand-fox-news-created robot. Wyden is being used to make the otherwise lunatic Republican party look reasonable. He must change his path now.

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    Kari, it seems to me you are jaded by your employment with Eileen Brady. Your arguments suddenly sound very neo-liberal and uncharacteristically lacking in perspective. Et tu Brute?

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    The important move between now and 2012 election will be for the Dem Party and those running for election to thoroughly vilify Wyden and distance themselves from him on this issue.

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