Wyden calls out Romney after debate namecheck

Kari Chisholm FacebookTwitterWebsite

In tonight's debate, President Obama charged - correctly - that the plan offered by Governor Romney and Congressman Ryan would turn Medicare into a voucher program. That program would essentially fix the amount that the government contributes to health care costs, whether or not that amount actually cover seniors' health expenses. As my friend Jason Stanford calls it, "Groupon for Grandmas".

In defense, Mitt Romney claimed - once again - that the Ryan voucher plan is a bipartisan one supported by our own Senator Ron Wyden. From the transcript:

And, by the way the idea came not even from Paul Ryan or -- or Senator Wyden, who's the co-author of the bill with -- with Paul Ryan in the Senate, but also it came from Bill -- Bill Clinton's chief of staff. This is an idea that's been around a long time, which is saying, hey, let's see if we can't get competition into the Medicare world so that people can get the choice of different plans at lower cost, better quality. I believe in competition.

Taking to Twitter to respond, Wyden blasted Romney:

Let's be clear: There is no "bill" with Wyden and Ryan as co-authors. They wrote up a white paper on Medicare reform that suggested a program that would include a Medicare guarantee. In essence, if the voucher didn't cover the cost of private health care, seniors could come back to Medicare for full coverage.

Ryan rejected that idea and went back to his original Ryan Budget that would put Medicare on a phase-out path. And Wyden spoke out against the Ryan plan and voted against it numerous times.

That's why, back in August, Wyden hit back hard at Romney, saying he was "talking nonsense" and "making things up."

Fortunately for Wyden, the twittersphere exploded. On the jump, some of the best Twitter reactions.

...and that's just some of the reaction.

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

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    Larger question, does the truth matter, do facts matter in the toxic political culture that the lowlife media outlets promote? Political reporters are the least respected, most reviled media professionals today with good reason.

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    Here's what "bipartisanship" looks like in this post-Gingrich age of Cantor and Ryan: When Democrats go out of their way to work with Republicans, they get used. As if Wyden said, "Sure, whatever you say. Just add my name when you're done figuring it out. Could you send me a memo? No? Ok, that's fine."

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    Wyden f'd up in his plan with Ryan. Period. The way you describe it is false.

    It does not preserve "traditional Medicare" (aka Medicare Part A) as it claims. A plan with many of the features of "traditional Medicare" would co-exist with other plans in an Exchange, and could be bought with the non-voucher defined contribution provided, like other plans. In effect it would be a public option for seniors within a Medicare exchange.

    The loss of the universal character of the pseudo-traditional plan would make it a) lose its administrative advantages and b) turn it into a magnet for adverse selection so that it would become unsustainable do to high-risk, high-cost seniors gravitating toward it. That's what "if the voucher doesn't cover the cost" means.

    There are three options here: either the shrunken, high-risk Medicare raises its prices too, or the government pays for the very high cost out of taxes (i.e. the approach doesn't solve the fiscal issues) or the shrunken, high-risk Medicare goes bust.

    It's a bad idea that Wyden likes because he is Exchange-happy and like Romney mistakenly believes that controlling insurance premium costs is a route to controlling health care costs. It's a category error.

    Romney was perfectly within his rights to cite Wyden. The details differ in small ways, but the basic principles are the same:

    1) change from defined benefit to defined contribution from the government, & shift costs onto seniors;

    2) wrongly believe that markets for premium prices will control health care costs, rather than shifting them into deductibles, co-pays, co-insurance, and hospital overheads for indigent care.

    Wyden only has himself to blame for this.

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      Reasonable people can find all sorts of things to dislike in just about any policy - including the white paper that Wyden co-authored with Ryan.

      But the key thing that my post above focused on - and the key thing that Wyden notes in his disagreement with Romney - is that the white paper included a Medicare guarantee, while the final Ryan plan (which Wyden opposed) does not.

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    The only practical way out of the Medicare fiscal problems caused by isolating the senior risk pool from the lower risk younger population, and out of the growing problem of the erosion of benefits covered under employer-based health insurance that mean that the problem of insured persons going bankrupt and losing homes due to medical costs will continue to expand, and to get the administrative efficiencies and leverage for delivery reform needed to limit costs, is a universal social insurance program in health care.

    I.e. improved Medicare for All, single payer.

    It is the only health realistic option, and the only economically realistic option.

    Time to get focused on the politics.

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    I love Ron Wyden, but I have to side with Chris, here. Wyden's plan has substantial problems and, at the moment we were making some real progress on health care, a real bizarre step away from progressive change. It is an open invitation for conservative name-checking, and an entirely regrettable proposal. I wish Wyden would walk it back.

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    I should say acknowledge the larger point: Romney lied with astonishing ease and profligacy. It was actually unsettling to me to see a national politician lie so casually--and equally unsettling to watch the media praise him for it.

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    I found myself shouting at the TV when I heard that comment because I knew it was fundamentally wrong. Just like Robme's comment about reaching across the aisle. My research found he had 844 vetoes in one term vs. Kitz 200 in two terms. And a legislature that felt bypassed and disrespected. He couldn't reach across the aisle with a map, guide and flashlight!

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