It has been a long road, but the Republican Party’s embrace of the idea of privatizing Medicare via a voucher system is now complete. The GOP will add Paul Ryan’s plan to turn Medicare into a voucher program to their official party platform, based on a draft version likely to be ratified. From Bloomberg:
“While retaining the option of Medicare in competition with private plans” the platform called for “transition to a premium-support model for Medicare,” which would give recipients an income-adjusted subsidy to buy insurance.
Medicare should “change from an unsustainable defined- benefit entitlement model” to the “defined contribution model,” the platform draft said. And a “more realistic” eligibility age than the current standard of 65 should be set to reflect “today’s longer life span,” the document said.
The Republican embrace of this very unpopular idea began in earnest in 2011 when House Republicans voted for it as part of the Paul Ryan budget. Even after this event, though, there was still a good chance the Party would back away from the idea after witnessing the political blow back it caused. There was real concern among many top Republicans that the idea went too far and could damage the GOP brand. Even Newt Gingrich, while running for the Party’s nomination and trying to appeal to Republican primary voters, first worked to distanced himself from it by calling it “radical.”
The presidential election created an opening that could have allowed Republicans to back away from this plan. The acceptance of a new leader who was trying to reach out to swing voters was a real opportunity to abandon an unpopular proposal. Their presidential nominee could easily have created his own plan for Medicare that would have supplanted the Ryan budget’s ideas as the “official Republican plan.” Instead of doing this though, the Republican nominee has apparently decided to double down on privatizing and voucherizing Medicare. Mitt Romney didn’t just endorse the basic idea by selecting the idea’s architect, Paul Ryan, to be his running mate. Adding the idea to the party platform is now the cherry on top, officially stating this is what the Republican Party now stands for.
This is more than a proposal from simply a top Republican leader or an idea popular with some Republicans in Congress. This is now what the Republican Party is about. Republican candidates at all levels are now inescapably tied to it.
This is a rather remarkable move by a party given that only a year ago this Medicare issue was seen as costing Republicans a solidly red congressional district in New York.