Paul Ryan | Medicare Reform | Voucher Plan
Will Ryan's Medicare Voucher Plan Kill Grandma?
Most political observers agree that Mitt Romney's choice of Paul Ryan as his vice presidential nominee is a bold and risky statement.
As Karl Rove noted, Mitt Romney picked Paul Ryan to make the election about big issues.
No issue looms larger than the economy.
With the recovery still sputtering along it is also the issue in which Barack Obama remains most vulnerable.
By nominating Paul Ryan, Mitt Rominee makes the uniquivocal statement that it's the economy stupid! Obama's Plan hasn't worked, but ours will.
While many have criticized Romney's economic proposals for being too safe and short on specifics, Paul Ryan has been precise and vocal about his plan to reform the struggling U.S. economy.
In 2011, Ryan authored a plan called the "Path to Prosperity" as an alternative to Barack Obama's budget. Ryan incorporated the key elements of his plan into draft budgets. The 2011 version of which failed in the house. The 2012 version passed the House but stalled in the Senate.
For Romney the appeal of the Ryan plan is that it calls for radical (by Washington DC standards) reform and the slashing of federal deficits. This positions Romney to galvanize his anti big government base while projecting a reformer image to centrist voters concerned with a slow recovery and increasing deficits.
However, part of what makes Paul Ryan appealing also makes him a gamble for Romney.
Ryan's budget calls for fundamental changes to Medicare.
It is this part of Ryan's plan that is the most controversial and which Team Obama is certain to attack.
Before Ryan was named to the ticket, a progressive group called the Agenda Project seized upon the controversial medicare provision in Ryan's plan.
The ad "Granny Off the Cliff" (below) shows a shadowy figure eerily reminiscent of Paul Ryan taking a wheelchair bound Granny on a leisurely stroll, which turns suddenly into on a harrowing ride ending in Grandma being thrown from a cliff.
The clear implication is that Ryan's plan pretends to save medicare but insteads ruthlessly guts medicare leaving Grandma to die.
But does Ryan's plan actually call for Grandma's execution?
Ryan's Medicare overhaul originally called for the replacement of medicare by 2022 with a privatized system. Under the plan, existing medicare beneficiaries would be grandfathered (or grandmothered), but new enrollees would have to purchase from select competing private insurers.
Seniors would be entitlted to "premium support" or "vouchers" to help cover the cost of private premiums.
Most of the criticism of Ryan's plan is that it does not guarantee seniors will be insured. Instead, the premium support voucher would be pegged to inflation rather than health care costs which are increasing at a much faster rate.
The charge is that seniors will be unable to afford insurance as a result of growing medicare costs with an increasingly insufficient government subsidy. Before long, Grandma is unable to afford insurance and is left to die.
Most of these charges are aimed at the 2011 version of Ryan's plan. However, the newer 2012 version addresses these concerns by giving seniors the option to buy traditional medicare and includes safeguards intended to ensure at least two plans stay at or below the inflation rate.
Questions remain as to whether the new version of Ryan's plan can accomplish the goal of reducing medicare spending and maintaining affordability for seniors without decreasing benefits to such an extent that the plan actually kills Grandma.
Ryan argues that the current costs of medicare spending is unsustainable. The implication: Grandma may or may not die under the Ryan plan. However, if no action is taken on deficit reduction and entitlements, Grandma will not only die, but she will take the U.S. off the cliff with her.
Ryan (below) offers a more articulate argument for his plan.