Preserving and protecting Medicare

Both House Republicans and the president proposed solutions to this crisis. House Republicans propose not making any changes to Medicare for anyone 55 and older. Under our plan, future retirees – those under 55 – would be given access to a health care plan similar to what members of Congress have, with poorer and sicker beneficiaries receiving more assistance with their premiums and wealthier seniors receiving less.

Those who choose to have the congressional-like health care plan will pay only a minimal amount of money every month, similar to what an employee pays under their current health care plans provided by their employer. Likewise, Medicare would pay a certain portion of the insurance company premium, with the amount to depend on the income, age, and health of the beneficiary.

We know this plan will save and deliver quality results because it is based on the successful Medicare Part D prescription drug plan model. The Part D program is the only mandatory program I’m aware of that came in significantly under budget while delivering the same level of access that was predicted.

In contrast, the president has already started implementing his plan for Medicare as part of last year’s health care law – the Affordable Care Act. First, he cut $500 billion out of Medicare to pay for a new entitlement program for government-run health care. Then, he created a rationing board known as the Independent Payment Advisory Board (IPAB) that is charged with cutting benefits that are not deemed to be cost effective. Now, because these cuts have failed to save Medicare from bankruptcy, he has proposed doubling down and strengthening the IPAB to ration even more care.

Let me say this clearly: the Ryan plan does not cut benefits for current retirees. The president’s plan does.  Seniors were promised Medicare benefits and paid in for most of their lives. It would be wrong no to honor this promise.

While I support the Ryan plan, I am willing to listen to anyone with good ideas who wants to ensure our country can afford our obligations. For instance, some have suggested giving those under 55 a choice between traditional Medicare or the health care plan members of Congress receive. Under this proposal, future Medicare recipients would be able to choose the plan that works best for them from a list of guaranteed coverage options. I am willing to consider such a proposal if it helps balance our budget and provides quality care to our seniors.

If we want to solve this problem, we must stop the demagoguery and work together. Fixing Medicare should not be about political gain, but instead should be about providing quality care for our seniors and protecting that care.