Rep. Paul Ryan floats plan to raise exemption age for Medicare changes

2013-03-05T11:00:00Z Rep. Paul Ryan floats plan to raise exemption age for Medicare changesROB THOMAS | The Capital Times | rthomas@madison.com | @robt77 madison.com

In talking about his plans to turn Medicare into a premium-support — i.e. voucher — program during the 2012 presidential election, U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan hammered one point again and again; it would not affect anyone 55 or older.

"Our solution to preserve, protect and save Medicare does not affect your benefits," Ryan, Mitt Romney’s vice presidential pick, said during an Aug. 18, 2012, campaign stop in Florida. "Let me repeat that — our plan does not affect the benefits for people who are in or near retirement."

But that claim may be changing, and Americans in their late 50s might not like it. The Hill reported Tuesday that Ryan told a group of GOP lawmakers at a recent luncheon that he may have to raise the exemption age as high as 59 — those currently younger than 59 could face limits on Medicare benefits.

"Paul Ryan was pretty clear that that could happen," an unidentified GOP lawmaker told The Hill. "You could have to take it up to a higher number like 56, 57, 59 ... it could be higher than 55, but he also said, ‘We don’t have any numbers yet.'"

Ryan is scheduled to talk more about the outlines of his budget plans Wednesday with reporters.

The issue at hand is that Ryan's original budget plan, beloved by conservatives, aimed to balance the budget by the year 2040. Among the provisions were dramatic Medicare privatization reforms that critics say would mean less money in the hands of future seniors.

But, under pressure by conservatives in Congress, Ryan agreed to revise his budget to balance by 2023. Economists are skeptical that he could hit that target without cuts in Medicare, unless he was planning to make deep cuts in defense spending or Social Security.

"It is possible in terms of arithmetic,” said Alan Auerbach, an economist and budget expert at the University of California, Berkeley, to Talking Points Memo. “But it is also implausible.”

That has GOP centrists, who have been making the reassuring "55-and-older" argument to seniors in their districts for years, uncomfortable. They worry that the party's efforts to placate tea party conservatives might trigger a backlash among seniors, a traditionally solid Republican demographic.

“The anger [among centrists] is that, ‘Look, we’ve been home and we’ve told the people you don’t have to worry — 55 and older ... so now because these nuts are demanding a 10-year [balanced] budget ... you’re expecting us [to pass it] again?’" said Former Ohio Rep. Steve LaTourette, who chairs the centrist Republican Main Street Partnership. "And so I don’t think that’s going to happen."

When asked by Talking Points Memo, a Ryan spokesman appeared to leave the door slightly open for an age hike.

“With respect to Medicare, Chairman Ryan will again put forward a real solution to protect and strengthen Medicare for current seniors and future generation,” the spokesman told the website. “His reforms ensure no changes for those in or near retirement, a sharp contrast to the real harm inflicted on seniors by the president’s health care law.”

The question is how "near retirement" one would have to be.

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(13) Comments

  1. 196ski
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    196ski - March 06, 2013 10:35 pm
    Unfortunately there isn't anything to debate. One politician has put an option down on the table and he pays and continues to pay for proposing what he believes will save the system. The rest, Republicans, Democrats and the President are silent. They know, they just won't put on their big boy pants and be honest with the citizens of this country. Reelection and party politics trump honest government every time.
  2. Fartinthewind
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    Fartinthewind - March 06, 2013 9:36 pm
    There are a variety of options available. Bottom line? We have an aging population. As a percentage of GDP healthcare costs are going to go up and that is going to have a drag on our economy.

    I welcome the debate.
  3. 196ski
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    196ski - March 06, 2013 5:12 pm
    This is disheartening.

    The Board of Trustees of Medicare has been saying for years now in their annual report that Medicare in its current form is unsustainable and by 2025 will be out of money, 12 short years from now.

    Ryan has been the one politician who not only will acknowledge it but actually has offered up one possible solution. The rest, including the President, are cowering in the corner afraid to address the financial problems facing Medicare and SS. Has the President offered up a plan? The Democrats? While they give entitlement reform a wink and a nod in speeches they are unwilling to confront the elephant in the room. They have found, that it is far better to let someone else bring this unpopular subject up and then make personal attacks against them. That is the state of our political process today. No thoughtful debate, just attack the other side and spend borrowed money like there is no tomorrow and hand the payment books to our children and grandchildren.

    Kudos to Ryan for manning up in a room full of children.
  4. Nav
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    Nav - March 06, 2013 3:08 pm
    Paul Ryan inadvertently tells the people NOT to trust anything he says. This so called "young gun" supposedly full of numbers is also full of baloney.

    People are noticing how Republicans will say anything, do anything, to win elections. Once they have won, the start their war on the middle and working class. They never fail in this regard.
  5. Tricolor Dog
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    Tricolor Dog - March 06, 2013 6:44 am
    It's pretty clear that they were lying in the campaign about their intentions for Medicare. They have always been against the New Deal and the Great Society - now that they control the purse strings, they think they can change it. Fortunately, nothing gets passed by the House without the Senate confirming it and the President signing it. Hence - obstruction. Luckily for those of us who are watching, they're putting on a pretty good show and tell about their plans.
  6. happydays
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    happydays - March 05, 2013 4:16 pm
    And the longer Obama takes to fix the debt problem the lower the age is going to go. When you have no money - you can't keep spending.
  7. Liberalsmakesense
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    Liberalsmakesense - March 05, 2013 3:34 pm
    We need to be very suspicious of this Ryan dude. Clearly he wants to eventually end medicare as we know it, so the rich can get more rich.
  8. Jambalaya
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    Jambalaya - March 05, 2013 2:41 pm
    Ryan said "but we don't have any numbers yet." Uh, wha??? So far Ryan's "path to prosperity" has been "recalculated" about 5 times in as many years. Every year a new version has to be released to fix the glaring flaws in the previous year's version. Why do people give this guy the time of day. It's obvious he has zero real world experience.
  9. Jambalaya
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    Jambalaya - March 05, 2013 2:37 pm
    Oh my. I've said all along that no real plan would exclude even *current* retirees.
  10. Fartinthewind
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    Fartinthewind - March 05, 2013 1:42 pm
    I wonder how many republicans who voted Romney/Ryan are now happy they dynamic duo went down in flames.
  11. reader28
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    reader28 - March 05, 2013 1:03 pm
    Let's remember that those of us Medicare recipients with high incomes pay extra premiums to Medicare already. One thing we could do is raise the Medicare premiums.If we know that ahead of time, we can plan for it. Note that premiums are determined (as far as I can figure it) by all income including dividends, interest, and capital gains and increase as income increases.
  12. RichardSRussell
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    RichardSRussell - March 05, 2013 11:24 am
    Well, the capitalists managed to undercut unions by getting union elders to buy into the 2-tier wage system — protecting their existing members at the expense of the newer ones that somebody else would be stuck representing down the road — so it's not surprising that they're trying the same "divide and conquer" tactics here.

    What they fail to take into account is that, unlike union leaders, who have yet to meet the company's future employees, the over-55s already know their grandchildren. And, if you think a mama grizzly is protective of her young, you ain't never seen a gramma in action.
  13. dante
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    dante - March 05, 2013 11:21 am
    Why does Ryan want to play "class warfare" and divide us into the haves (those older than 59) and the have-nots (those younger than 59)? Are our health care needs going to be any different than those who are 20+ years older than I am?

    Or could it be that the most reliable age for voting Republican is 65+, with the most reliable age for voting Democrat are those younger than 30? This is nothing more than a continued handout to their base, as evidenced by the "restore $700b to Medicare" BS that they pedaled during the campaign.
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