Wyden says he has no plans to again take up Medicare reform with Paul Ryan

Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) has no plans to partner with Rep. Paul Ryan on a new Medicare reform bill, the senator has told The Hill.

The two lawmakers made waves in 2011 with a bipartisan proposal that infuriated Democrats and later inspired Mitt Romney's healthcare plan.

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But Wyden said there will not be an encore anytime soon, especially as House Republicans move to balance the federal budget within 10 years.

“They have moved even further in terms of budget changes that would affect Medicare,” Wyden, a frequent bipartisan collaborator, told The Hill this week. “I think it's going to be very hard to get Democratic support for that budget generally.”

The joint Medicare proposal from Wyden and Ryan (R-Wis.), the chairman of the House Budget Committee and Romney’s running mate last year, was unveiled as a white paper in December 2011.

The plan would have given seniors a choice between traditional Medicare and a subsidy to pay for private insurance, effectively combining the status quo in Medicare with elements of Ryan's premium-support model.



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The so-called Ryan-Wyden plan immediately upset Democrats, who planned to use Ryan's support for privatizing Medicare to win congressional races.

Liberal lawmakers expressed concerns that the collaboration would provide bipartisan cover for Ryan's Medicare policy.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) called the Ryan-Wyden proposal “lipstick on a pig.”

Even the White House came out against it, using the now-familiar line that the plan would “end Medicare as we know it.”

Wyden denied on Friday that the partnership had caused him any fallout. He said that he's spoken with Ryan in the last year, but is focused on Senate-side alliances.

“I am looking at some fresh ideas,” he said. “I think there's a still sense that something has to be done here, on Medicare.”

Wyden is now the chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, which could make working with the House Republican star and possible 2016 presidential candidate more difficult.

Under the Ryan-Wyden plan, seniors would buy coverage through a Medicare exchange not dissimilar from the marketplaces that will offer coverage under President Obama's healthcare law.

The proposal would also hold private Medicare plans to strict requirements, and prohibit them from denying seniors coverage.

Ryan's 2012 budget incorporated some elements of his collaboration with Wyden.

But the Oregon Democrat quickly distanced himself from the House GOP plan, especially provisions that raised Medicare's eligibility age and lowered the rate of federal spending on the program.

Under Ryan-Wyden, premium-support subsidies would rise at the rate of gross domestic product (GDP) growth plus 1 percent. Ryan's 2012 plan would cap that support at GDP growth plus 0.5 percent.

On Friday, Wyden defended the idea that Medicare needs reform, but blamed the House GOP for moving further to the right in its budgeting.

“House Republicans couldn't even deliver enough of their own votes for the white paper,” he said, referring to his collaboration with Ryan. “Now they've moved even further away from Democrats on Medicare.”

For Ryan's part, a spokesman suggested that a future partnership is not out of the question.

“The chairman is always looking to collaborate with those, like Sen. Wyden, who are interested in preserving the Medicare guarantee by making the program sustainable over the long-term,” said William Allison, press secretary for the House Budget Committee.