To coincide with Paul Ryan’s release of the House Republican budget, Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) put an op-ed up in the Huffington Post to defend creating the Wyden-Ryan Medicare proposal. That proposal has allowed Ryan to claim there is “bipartisan support” for his budget proposals.
Those who say they support Wyden-Ryan simply for political cover are neither helping seniors nor being bipartisan. Rather, using Wyden-Ryan for political purposes harms seniors by making a bipartisan agreement to uphold the Medicare Guarantee that much harder. Anyone who does this deserves to be called out on it.
However, by that same token, those of us who care about the Medicare Guarantee shouldn’t discourage Republicans from working in a bipartisan way to preserve the program in the future. Even though it might blunt some political attacks, we should be encouraging Republicans to take dangerous reforms off the table and pledge their support for Medicare. Just as we should be working to educate our conservative colleagues about the importance of a program many of them clearly don’t understand. The upcoming election is important, but after the election, we’re going to have to pass Medicare reform and that is going to require us to work together.
This week, Congressman Ryan will be unveiling the House Republican Budget. I do not know what the details of the budget will be. I didn’t write it and I can’t imagine a scenario where I would vote for it. I do know, however, that because we worked together, Paul Ryan now knows more about the Medicare Guarantee and protecting seniors from unscrupulous insurance practices than he did before. If that is reflected in his budget this year, as someone who has been fighting for seniors since he was 27 years old, I think that’s a step in the right direction.
Wyden’s defense is that by working with Paul Ryan, he got Ryan to back down from his terrible plan last year to turn Medicare into an exclusively private insurance voucher program. Of course this seems like the classic problem of a man with too much ego. It was not Wyden’s clever policy arguments that got Ryan to change his mind; it was the horrible political backlash Ryan’s proposal received.
The American people hated the Ryan plan to replace Medicare, and the Republicans had to drop it or face serious electoral loses. Wyden didn’t get Republican to take his “dangerous ideas off the table.” The uproar of the American people did.
This is no reason to believe Ryan is now any more seriously committed to the Medicare Guarantee now than he was last year. Looking at how his budget treats the health care needs of others, such as inevitiable, dramatic cuts for Medicaid, it is very clear that having the government help people get quality health insurance is not something Paul Ryan cares about.
It is not some outside group of politicians who have been exploiting the Wyden-Ryan plan simply for political cover. It has been Paul Ryan leading the way in showing other Republicans how to hide behind the veneer of bipartisanship Wyden provides. If, after all of Ryan’s statements, votes and bills Wyden can’t see that, than I almost feel sorry for the senator.