What’s in a name? Everything, it would appear, when it comes to describing Rep. Paul Ryan’s plan to privatize Medicare, which the Republican-controlled House of Representatives backed in its budget resolution late last month. The plan would subsidize seniors’ purchase of private insurance plans instead of enrolling in traditional government-financed Medicare, although that would be preserved as an option. The government would finance a portion of the purchase.
Architects of the plan call it “premium support.” Opponents call it a voucher, which they say will over time lag behind medical inflation and force seniors to pay an ever-growing share of their health care bills.
Ten Republicans joined every Democrat in voting against the resolution, which passed 228-191. The Republican apostates abandoned their majority colleagues largely because they were afraid of being tarred with the voucher label during this fall’s re-election campaign.
And it was that label that Republicans on the House Ways and Means health subcommittee repeatedly attacked during Friday’s hearing on the Republican plan, which has not yet been introduced as legislation. Its details have not yet been scrutinized by health care experts or, more significantly, the Congressional Budget Office. “Premium support is not a voucher,” Ryan, R-Wis., said at the hearing.