• Medicare Reform: Not Happening
  • May 15, 2015
  • Law Firm: McDonald Hopkins LLC - Cleveland Office
  • Major Medicare reform was once gospel for Republicans, and indeed, moving Medicare to a more privatized model has been a staple of Republican budgets since they took the House in 2010. This year, however, it is clear that major reform of the entitlement program isn’t on the GOP agenda.

    Some on the right aren't happy about that, but boosters on Capitol Hill insist that the policy, known as premium support, isn't dead. It's just lying dormant until 2017, presuming a Republican wins the White House.

    The proposal, which allows Medicare enrollees to receive a voucher and purchase private health coverage, has become close to party doctrine since Ryan started putting it in his annual budgets in 2011. Mitt Romney endorsed his running mate's Medicare agenda during the 2012 presidential campaign, and took heat from the Obama campaign for it.

    House Budget Chairman Tom Price, who succeeded Ryan this year after the latter assumed the Ways and Means post, reintroduced the premium-support plan in this year's House budget. But the newly Republican-controlled Senate did not; it called for unspecified $430 billion in cuts over 10 years. The conference agreement that the two chambers reached last week "proposes the same amount of Medicare savings reflected in the Senate-passed fiscal year 2016 budget," and the relevant committees in each chamber are tasked with coming up with specific proposals.

    Why the retreat on Medicare? Like so many other issues, it’s all about politics. Senate Republicans are concerned about their newly minted majority. Vulnerable GOP senators up in 2016 aren’t thrilled about diving into a Medicare fight.

    Furthermore, the proposal would be dead on arrival even if it reached President Obama's desk. The Republican congress clearly is prioritizing instead, using the budget to either repeal the Affordable Care Act or pass a so-called "fix" if the Supreme Court rules as the GOP hopes it does and invalidates the health care law's subsidies in more than 30 states this summer.