Wyden tells labor he opposes Medicare “vouchers”

U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) told the Northwest Oregon Labor Council Executive Board April 9 that he absolutely opposes turning Medicare into a voucher program.

“I’m totally against vouchers. I’ve always been against vouchers. I voted against (U.S. Rep. Paul) Ryan’s original proposal because I thought it was a voucher,” Wyden said.

Last year, Rep. Paul Ryan, (R-Wisconsin), chair of the House Budget Committee, presented a budget blueprint that called for overhauling Medicare by replacing the traditional government-run system with vouchers to buy private insurance.

The proposal passed in the House but was rejected by the Senate.

Since then, Wyden has been working with Ryan to co-author a revised plan to overhaul Medicare. The Ryan-Wyden proposal, announced last December, keeps traditional Medicare open, but it also includes an option to receive a government subsidy (they call it premium support) to purchase insurance through a Medicare-approved private plan.

The proposal has angered Wyden’s constituents in  labor, seniors, and fellow Democrats, who say it’s still a voucher system.

Wyden insists that the new plan isn’t a voucher. “A voucher is like a glorified coupon, and it never keeps up with costs,” he explained to the NOLC Executive Board. “Unlike vouchers, premium support is variable, it rises with health care costs.”

Wyden said premium support payments would be pegged to the actual cost of health care in a given area, determined by an annual competitive bidding process.

Last month, Ryan unveiled the House Republicans’ 2013 budget proposal, which includes in it the Ryan-Wyden Medicare plan.

“I oppose it, sight unseen,” Wyden told the NOLC Executive Board.

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