Rep. Ryan knocks Obama for not shoring up Medicare funding

The Obama administration is violating federal law by declining to submit a proposal to shore up the Medicare program, House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) said Tuesday.

The 2003 Medicare Modernization Act directs the administration to address the program's solvency when the Medicare Trustees trigger a funding warning, which they did last August. 

The administration has 15 days after submitting the president's budget to Congress to propose solutions to Medicare's fiscal imbalance. The budget was submitted Feb. 14, but no proposal has been offered.

"It is incumbent upon the President to explain why he not only ignored Medicare's insolvency in his own budget proposal, but why he also ignored the law today," Ryan said. "Seniors, working families, and future generations can longer afford such irresponsible leadership."

The administration however considers the statute to be "advisory and not binding."

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A White House official said the administration takes issue with the "Medicare trigger," which is pulled when federal general revenues are starting to become a substantial share of total financing for Medicare. A better metric, the official said, would be Medicare's share of GDP.

In addition, the official pointed out that last year's report found that the healthcare reform law extended the life of Medicare's trust fund from 2017 to 2029.

"While the statute calls upon the President to respond to the funding warning by submitting a legislative proposal, the President, under the Recommendations Clause of the Constitution, is not legally obligated to submit a legislative proposal," the official said via e-mail. "This interpretation of the Recommendations Clause was shared by the Bush Administrations."

The White House has come under attack for declining to address the long-term solvency of entitlement programs such as Medicare and Social Security, saying those proposals should originate in Congress. Ryan, for his part, has courted controversy with his proposal to transform Medicare over time into a voucher program.

Democrats voted to ignore the trigger when they controlled Congress the past four years, but this year the trigger has remained active.