Ryan says his Medicare reform plan ‘evolved’ to gain bipartisan support

GOP vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan on Saturday said his position on Medicare reform had “evolved” and that both he and presumptive nominee Mitt Romney were committed to preserving the program for future retirees.

In an interview with Fox News's Carl Cameron, Ryan was asked to reconcile differences in his Medicare reform proposals.

The House Budget Committee chairman’s reform proposals moved from a privatized model to what would be a split system where Medicare participants could opt to keep the current program’s structure. 

“As we got into looking at this issue, talking with Democrats, it evolved to be a plan that is now bipartisan,” said Ryan.

“This Medicare reform plan originated in the Clinton bipartisan commission to save Medicare, it’s a bill with bipartisan support, a proposal with bipartisan support in Congress today,” he said, referring to a compromise proposal he drafted with Oregon Sen. Ron Wyden (D) last year.  

Ryan suggested that while Romney had expressed concerns with his initial Medicare reform proposals that made a privatized model mandatory for participants, he broadly backed Ryan’s most recent proposals which would allow for seniors near retirement age or on Medicare to stick with the current system.

“What Mitt Romney is talking about is keeping the Medicare program intact for people in and near retirement,” he said. 

Ryan’s selection last weekend as Romney’s running mate thrust Medicare reform into the spotlight as Democrats have hit at Ryan’s proposals saying they would raise healthcare costs for seniors.

Republicans, though, have accused Obama of weakening the program by cutting $716 billion from the program to pay for his own healthcare reform bill.

Democrats have countered that those reductions came from savings targeting waste and fraud and that Ryan’s own budget calculations include those same reductions.

Ryan repeated those attacks, saying both he and Romney were committed to “preventing this raid that President Obama has put on the program to pay for ‘ObamaCare.” 

“By repealing ObamaCare we can restore Medicare and also we are offering a bipartisan solution to make sure that it is there for future retirees when they retire,” said Ryan.

The seven-term lawmaker said Obama was focusing attacks on his Medicare reform proposals to distract from the administration’s “failed economic agenda.”

“It’s not a record he can run on, so he’s basically relegated his campaign to division, frustration and anger,” he said.

Asked by Cameron if Republicans and Democrats were both opposing some proposals they backed in the past, Ryan acknowledged that the debate over Medicare reform has been a process. 

“There’s a lot to sort through,” he said, but he added that Republicans had now presented real solutions for saving the program, unlike Obama. “We’re offering leadership, we’re offering solutions. The president is not.”

Ryan also denied that his own policy proposals would overshadow those of Romney. “I’m joining the Romney-Ryan ticket he said. “What Mitt Romney and I have done throughout our careers is we’ve applied the same principles to solve problems. I’m excited to be on his team, to follow his lead.”

In the interview, Ryan also responded to Democratic attacks accusing him of hypocrisy for sending letters to federal agencies supporting requests for stimulus funds for a non-profit group in his state. 

“My office sends tens of thousands of letters to versus federal agencies and this goes went through what we call our case work system, where it was treated as a case work request for constituents,” said Ryan. “I take full responsibility for it, it wasn’t my intention to send letters supporting stimulus."

Ryan added, though, that the letters did not "change the fact that the stimulus was a bomb, it didn't work, it was a boondoggle." 

"Borrowing and spending, spending money on things like Solyndra - that does not create jobs," he said.