KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations.

Sparks Continue To Fly Around GOP Medicare Plan

News outlets offer varying takes on how voters and fellow Republicans are reacting to the GOP plan to transform Medicare.

The Washington Post: GOP Plan To Change Medicare Is Rooted In Bipartisan History
The Bipartisan Commission on the Future of Medicare finished its work in 1999. But a dozen years later, the core ideas - championed then by a centrist Louisiana Democrat, Sen. John Breaux, and a brainy and acerbic chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, Republican Bill Thomas of California - live on in the proposal to change Medicare that the House has embraced in recent weeks. The proposed change is known as "premium support," because the government would pay part of the insurance premiums charged by private insurers that compete for older Americans' business. The idea's lineage reflects a more complicated reality than either political party acknowledges today. Although Democrats are now vilifying it as a dangerous creation of the GOP, it has had Republican and Democratic proponents alike for more than three decades (Goldstein, 5/1).

The Hill: Hill Poll: Majority Of Voters Reject Medicare Cuts To Reduce Deficits
Voters don't want their existing or future Medicare benefits cut even if it would help reduce the national debt, according to a new poll conducted for The Hill. Fifty-three percent of likely voters say they would not accept the idea of reduced benefits, while 33 percent said they would, and 14 percent were unsure (Swanson, 5/2).

Politico Pro: Ryan Takes Fame - And Hecklers - In Stride
Depending on which Wisconsinite you ask, Rep. Paul Ryan should either use his budget to pave a road to the White House or throw it into Lake Michigan. The Budget Committee chairman held 19 "listening sessions" in his southeastern Wisconsin district over the recess, and his constituents didn't disappoint: they gave him an earful. A vocal minority of protesters - some of them following him from venue to venue - kept Ryan's controversial plan to overhaul Medicare at the forefront of the eight town halls Politico attended. But he was also greeted with standing ovations and calls to run for president (Haberkorn, 5/1).

The Hill: GOP Remains United So Far On Medicare Proposals In Budget
House Republicans have stayed united behind a budget proposal imposing major changes to Medicare after a two-week recess highlighted by attacks on the plan. Polls show the public is worried about the proposal to replace Medicare with subsidies for private coverage. ... So far, that hasn't caused GOP support for the plan to unravel, though Republicans have consistently avoided discussing the Medicare proposal on its own, preferring to talk about it as one piece of a comprehensive deficit reduction effort (Pecquet and Baker, 4/30).

CNN: Republicans Wavering On Medicare Overhaul Plan
A leading House conservative on Sunday qualified her support for a Republican budget proposal that would overhaul Medicare, saying she was concerned it could hurt senior citizens. The comments by Rep. Michele Bachmann, a Tea Party favorite from Minnesota, showed the impact of public opposition to the Medicare provision of the budget plan that also calls for deep non-military spending cuts and reforming the tax code to lower rates while eliminating loopholes (Cohen, 5/1). 

Reuters: U.S. Republican Frets Over Party's Medicare Plan
U.S. Representative Michele Bachmann, who is considering a run for the presidency in 2012, is the latest in her party to fret about a plan that so fundamentally alters the popular insurance program. "One position that I'm concerned about is shifting the cost burden to senior citizens," Bachmann said on "Fox News Sunday." "Seniors are saying, 'Look, I'm not in a position to be able to handle that.' I also share that real fear" (Dixon, 5/1).

ABC: Republican Medicare Proposals Met With Growing Anger
What a difference a couple of months makes. Across the country this week Americans have been attending town hall meetings to voice their dissatisfaction over the proposed Republican budget. The outpouring of frustration is reminiscent of last year's movement against the Democrats' health care plan and what critics then called excessive government spending, but this time Republicans are bearing the brunt of the popular anger. According to Democrats, the budget, authored by Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., will turn Medicare into a voucher program limiting health care for seniors (Kerley, 4/30).

NPR: Medicare's Math Problem: Taxes – Benefits = Trouble
There's a reason system current system is unsustainable, says Eugene Steuerle, a former Treasury Department official and senior fellow at Washington's Urban Institute. He boils it down to two simple numbers. "An average couple retiring today has paid just a little over $100,000 in Medicare taxes" over the course of their working lives, Steuerle tells Guy Raz, host of weekends on All Things Considered. And what do they receive? "About $300,000 in benefits" - even after adjusting for inflation (4/30).

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