As Republicans scramble to repackage their messaging on Medicare following their loss in a New York special election that was effectively a referendum on the program, House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan, R-Wis., is sprinting to the rescue with a new angle: Backing his fiscal 2012 budget proposal would save Medicare, not end it.
One day after the Senate rejected his bill, which includes the most extensive overhaul to Medicare in the program’s history, Ryan said in a Bloomberg op-ed on Thursday that the proposal “advances a plan to save Medicare for today’s senior citizens and strengthen it for future generations.”
Indirectly addressing criticisms that his plan “privatizes” Medicare by putting the choice in the hands of consumers, Ryan concluded his missive: “Who should be making health-care decisions for you and your family? A panel of officials in Washington? Or you?”
Though Ryan tried to turn the table on Democrats, who he says “have seized it as a chance to play politics with the health of our nation,” the left was just as prepared to strike: Rep. Steve Israel of New York, chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, penned an op-ed in USA Today making the case that Democrats aren’t wrong in relying on Medicare as political leverage.
“Tuesday night, in Upstate New York, a long-shot Democratic candidate won a deeply Republican seat after a vigorous debate on the Republican plan to end Medicare to pay for tax subsidies for Big Oil and tax breaks for millionaires,” Israel wrote. “Rep.-elect Kathy Hochul made clear that seniors’ dignity would not be sacrificed.
“Voters of all political parties sent a resounding and unmistakable message: Americans reject the Republican plan to end Medicare,” Israel continued.
Hotline editor Reid Wilson writes that just what that will mean in the long run—2012 included—is yet to be determined.