Health On The Hill Transcript – Key Republican Signals Flexibility On Ryan Plan For Medicare

KHN’s Mary Agnes Carey talks with Jackie Judd about Rep. Dave Camp’s comments Thursday that signaled flexibility on Rep. Paul Ryan’s plan to change Medicare. Camp said he’s open to pursuing other approaches to reduce federal Medicare spending to lower the debt, and he called on Democrats to present specifics on how they would cut federal spending.



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JACKIE JUDD: Good day, this is Health on the Hill, I’m Jackie Judd. Another House Republican leader is signaling that the GOP is not going to the mat to back their proposal to replace Medicare with subsidies to purchase private insurance. Mary Agnes Carey, senior correspondent for Kaiser Health News, is here. Mary Agnes, you attended an event this morning where the Chair of the House Ways and Means Committee, Dave Camp, spoke. What happened? What did he say?

MARY AGNES CAREY: There were a lot of questions about Paul Ryan’s budget plan. In particular, how it deals with Medicare and how it would handle an issue called premium support. Chairman Camp said, “Yes, I voted for the Ryan plan,” but he’s open to other approaches to handle Medicare, and they don’t have to necessarily go the route of the Ryan plan on premium support.

JACKIE JUDD: Let’s listen to exactly what he had to say.

CHAIRMAN CAMP: Well, the Committee will consider Medicare legislation this year; if nothing else, to address the physician payment issue that is outstanding. But as I said in my prepared remarks, I’m not really interested in just laying down more markers. I’d rather have the Committee working with the Senate and with the President, focused on savings and reforms that can be signed into law.

MARY AGNES CAREY: I think his remarks there about “I’m not interested in putting down anymore markers” – he made it clear the Republicans had a plan. He also called on Democrats and the President to come forth with their ideas. Of course, the President has had a plan on deficit reduction dealing with Medicare. Congressman Camp didn’t speak too favorably about the President’s plan. But he made it very clear that he’s opened all sorts of approaches. He’s not walking away from premium support, he’s not taking it off of the table, but it’s not the only option out there.

JACKIE JUDD: And the House Speaker, John Boehner, said fairly much the same thing last week or the week before. He said he’s not wedded to the proposal, it is worthy of consideration, but he’s not wedded to it. Last night the Washington Post wrote a story about Eric Cantor pretty much suggesting the same thing. Cantor’s spokesperson dialed back a bit from that this morning. But when you step back from all of this, it seems clear that the Republicans are trying to re-position themselves on this issue.

MARY AGNES CAREY: Paul Ryan’s proposal on premium support and Medicare got a pretty nasty hearing — pretty nasty reception, rather — all over the country in meetings. Some people were supportive of him and said it’s what needs to be done to reduce the deficit and shore up the Medicare program, but many, many voters spoke against it. Different polling shows people of all ages are against it, and so Republicans, I think, are reading those numbers. They have to scale back, and they also want some political cover. They want the Democrats and the president to come to the table. Who knows if they’ll be able to agree on anything. But it’s kind of akin to everybody sort of holding hands and jumping off the bridge together. Whether or not they’ll get there, who knows, but it’s really the only way you could tackle something like Medicare.

JACKIE JUDD: Thank you so much, Mary Agnes Carey, Kaiser Health News.