Privatize, privatize, privatize. That’s what GOP vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan wants to do with Medicare, the country’s 47-year-old federal assistance program for seniors. And if you look back through Ryan’s many speeches on the issue, most of which are available online, you can see the evolution of his plans to radically overhaul the entitlement program.
In 1995, as an aide to former Sen. Sam Brownback (R-Kan.), Ryan claimed Medicare would go bankrupt by 2001. Even then, at only 25 years old, Ryan was fixated on how to save the government money. “We started the budget process with the goal that we absolutely have to eliminate this debt that we’re passing on,” Ryan said on CSPAN's Washington Journal. “We start from the premise that, if the federal government were not involved in this area of government today, should it be?”
Fast-forward to 2011, and Ryan’s message is the same: Medicare is still going bankrupt (but not until 2021, he now says) and needs to be reformed.
“[Medicare’s] status quo is unsustainable,” Ryan said during an interview with Kathleen Walter of Newsmax in June of last year, calling it a “fiscal fantasy” to even discuss the future of a program which “everybody says will not exist.”
This past spring, Ryan released his most recent Medicare plan as part of the 2013 House GOP budget. The plan will give seniors vouchers that they can use to buy insurance from private providers. Unlike Ryan’s previous Medicare reform plan, which he released in 2011, the new plan also allows seniors to use their vouchers on a traditional Medicare plan.
But critics say Ryan’s plan will allow insurers to cherry pick healthier customers and leave less healthy ones to the traditional government plan, which could see cost increases as a result. Another major concern with Ryan’s plan is that it caps the amount seniors would receive at GDP plus a half percent, so that if the costs of health care rose faster than the economy, seniors get stuck paying the difference out of pocket.
An October study from the non-partisan Kaiser Family Foundation suggests those cost increases will happen. The study found that under a plan like the one Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney has proposed, nearly six out of 10 Medicare beneficiaries would pay higher premiums than they currently do. Romney has said his plan is almost identical to Ryan’s.
Although Ryan says that President Barack Obama’s health care bill “weakens Medicare” and “puts it at risk for the next generation,” his own plan would cut $600 billion more from projected Medicare spending than Obama’s would.
But perhaps the most telling thing Ryan has said about his Medicare plan happened towards the end of his interview with Newsmax from 2011. Asked what his reaction was when former House Speaker Newt Gingrich called it “right-wing social engineering,” Ryan responded, “As far as social engineering goes, this is as gradual as it gets.”
Watch the video above to see Ryan's evolution on privatizing Medicare.