Newt Gingrich was thought to have doomed his then-nascent presidential campaign last May when he stiff-armed his own party’s budget plan on “Meet the Press.”
“I don’t think right-wing social engineering is any more desirable than left-wing social engineering. I don’t think imposing radical change from the right or the left is a very good way for a free society to operate. I think we need a national conversation to get to a better Medicare system with more choices for seniors,” Gingrich had said.
“I think that that is too big a jump,” he had said of the House GOP budget proposal to move Medicare from a system of direct government payment to doctors to one in which private insurance companies would manage a voucher-like system for seniors.
But Gingrich seems 100 percent OK with the new plan being rolled out by House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, R-Wisc. That plan includes a proposal – made jointly with Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore. – for an optional premium support plan, which according to them would “strengthen traditional Medicare by permanently maintaining it as a guaranteed and viable option for all of our nation’s retirees. At the same time, our plan would expand choice for seniors by allowing the private sector to compete with Medicare in an effort to offer seniors better quality and more-affordable health care choices.”
Here’s what Gingrich said today:
“The House GOP budget is a courageous plan that correctly understands the key to returning to a balanced budget is robust economic growth, spending control and bold entitlement reform, including the Ryan-Wyden optional premium support plan in Medicare. Chairman Ryan and the House Republican’s leadership stands in stark contrast with that of the Democratic Senate, which has once again, failed to produce a budget.”
“My plan to grow the economy and balance the budget differs in details but shares the same core principles as Ryan’s impressive effort. As president I would work very closely with Chairman Ryan to reform government and balance the budget.”
Yet Bay Area Democrats see little if any difference between what Ryan proposed last year and what he’s proposing this week. Rep. Pete Stark, D-Fremont, the ranking member on the Ways and Means Health Subcommittee that oversees Medicare, said:
“The Republican claim that their budget would preserve Medicare is both irresponsible and disingenuous. Beneficiaries would be given a voucher — crafted to decrease in value over time — to buy private insurance or try to stay in traditional Medicare.
“This Republican scheme would not only shift health care costs to seniors as their vouchers diminish, but will end Medicare as we know it. Private plans will cherry pick healthier folks, leaving the more sickly and elderly in what amounts to a faint memory of traditional Medicare as costs rise beyond their reach.
“Importantly, the Republican budget would not require plans to provide defined benefits as Medicare does today, thus ending the Medicare guarantee that has defined the program for decades.
“What’s more, the Republican budget would undo the consumer protections provided by Medicare and put private health insurers back in charge.
“Enacting the Republican plan would be devastating to the health and financial security of America’s senior citizens and people with disabilities. I will fight this plan to take America backward.”
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco, said Ryan’s plan lets Medicare “wither on the vine … The American people have already rejected this plan before – and this year will be no different. Americans’ priorities are clear: Republicans must work with Democrats to preserve and strengthen Medicare, not dismantle it.”