Rep. Paul Ryan tackles entitlement reform

Ryan, the senior Republican on the House Budget Committee, is no stranger to the topic. In February, he introduced a budget bill designed to set the nation's entitlement programs on a sustainable course, largely by privatizing Medicare and Medicaid.

Under Ryan's plan, dubbed the Roadmap for America's Future, those eligible for Medicare after 2020 (meaning those younger than 55 today) would receive vouchers to purchase private insurance coverage, which would effectively replace the government-backed single-payer system that now defines Medicare.

ADVERTISEMENT
Vouchers would be adjusted to reflect the wealth of the beneficiary, with the low-income seniors paying less than wealthier folks. Ryan's blueprint would also tweak Medicare eligibility, raising the eligibility age incrementally from 65 to 69-and-six-months during the next 80 years.

Without reform, Ryan warned, Medicare spending "simply and possibly cannot be sustained."

The latest report from the Medicare trustees, issued before the Democrats passed their reform bill, hints at the severity of the problem. By 2017, according to the group, the trust fund that pays the hospital costs for the nation's seniors will go bankrupt — much sooner than the Social Security trust fund, which is healthy enough to pay full benefits through 2037, according to the trustees' projections.

The next trustees report is due out at the end of June.