Today, Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) and Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) will formally introduce a new, bipartisan plan for Medicare reform. People 55 years of age or older would not be affected; everyone else, starting in 2022, will receive premium support that will allow them to choose between private insurance and traditional, fee-for-service public insurance.
As Yuval Levin notes in National Review, the Ryan-Wyden plan also plans to keep the cost of premium support low by using competitive bidding among private insurers to provide a defined minimum amount of coverage. That mechanism, Levin adds, is “an even more market-based reform than the original Ryan proposal” passed in the House budget earlier this year.
Rep. Ryan’s staff notes that he has always been willing to tinker with his Medicare proposals, and has done so in the past with Democrats such as former Clinton budget director Alice Rivlin. They stress that the key to the Ryan-Wyden plan is that Medicare would move from a defined benefit plan to a defined contribution plan–and they hail Sen. Wyden for his willingness to embrace that step, which is common in the business world but has traditionally been a conservative approach in the public policy arena.
The prospect of bipartisan entitlement reform is shaking the political world–not just because the Ryan-Wyden plan appears closer to Gov. Mitt Romney’s proposals than those of any other presidential contender, but also because it may thwart Democrats’ most cynical, and effective, campaign tactic: scaring seniors.
The left-wing Talking Points Memo predicts: “The move will infuriate other Democrats, all the way up to President Obama, who has been preparing a national campaign that emphasizes — not obscures — the contrast between the parties’ different visions of the social safety net.”
(Update: As expected, the White House has attacked the Ryan-Wyden plan almost immediately, claiming that it would “undermine, rather than strengthen, Medicare.” Even Sam Stein’s not buying the administration spin, noting that the Ryan-Wyden plan contains reforms Obama has previously supported.)
At the Huffington Post, Robert Creamer–the felon who apparently hatched Democrats’ political strategy for Obamacare from federal prison–is furious, claiming that the Ryan-Wyden plan will still “eliminate” Medicare and replace it with “vouchers,” and venting his frustration at Wyden: “What was he thinking?”
The Ryan-Wyden plan also disrupts the false mainstream media narrative that Republicans want to harm the economy in order to defeat President Obama next November. In fact, it exposes the reformist pretensions of the Obama White House, which is fully prepared to exacerbate America’s debt and entitlement crises to ensure the president’s re-election.
And as the Wall Street Journal suggests in an editorial today, the Ryan-Wyden plan sends a message to those Republicans too timid to offer serious and sweeping policy proposals. Real and meaningful political change is still possible, with the right ideas, and the requisite amount of courage, which both Rep. Ryan and Sen. Wyden have commendably displayed.