By Sam Baker - 12/06/11 04:26 PM EST
Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich on Tuesday said he would implement Rep. Paul Ryan’s Medicare plan.
Gingrich stirred controversy earlier this year by criticizing Ryan's plan as as “right-wing social engineering” and too big of a change too quickly. The criticism led to a drop in the polls for Gingrich, who Republicans hit hard for criticizing Ryan's budget plan.
Gingrich stuck to some of his criticism during a Tuesday interview with conservative talk show host Glenn Beck, particularly the scope of the Ryan plan.
“We can go back, and we can listen to exactly what I was asked on that show and what I said I stand by, which is in a free society, you don’t elect officials to impose on you things that you disagree with,” Gingrich said.
But he also said he would implement the bulk of Ryan’s plan.
"Now, I also, ironically, I would implement the Medicare reforms that Paul Ryan wants, I would implement them next year as an optional choice and I would allow people to have the option to choose premium support and then have freedom to negotiate with their doctor or their hospital in a way that would increase their ability to manage costs without being involved," Gingrich said.
Where he differed with Ryan, he explained is that he "wouldn’t impose it on everybody across the board."
"I think that’s a very large scale experiment,” he said. “But I think you could migrate people toward it."
Ryan’s proposal would convert the current Medicare program by using its federal funding for subsidies that seniors would use to purchase private insurance. Other versions of the “premium support” model would allow seniors to choose between private coverage and traditional Medicare.
Gingrich, whose popularity is surging among Republican primary voters, faced aggressive questions about healthcare during the Beck interview.
Beck pointed out that in 1993 and more recently, Gingrich offered support for a health insurance mandate.
“I am for people, individuals, exactly like automobile insurance, individuals having health insurance and being required to have health insurance," Gingrich said in 1993. Gingrich had linked the mandate to a “voucher system.”
Gingrich acknowledged that he previously supported “a version of” the unpopular insurance mandate included in President Obama’s healthcare reform law.