Earlier this year Representative Paul Ryan (R-WI) demonstrated two qualities that have been lacking in Washington the last decade. These qualities, courage and leadership, are rare today inside the beltway, and a taking a stand on (Medicare) is timely because the popular program could be bankrupt in 2029. But is his approach the right one for America? His Path to Prosperity, introduced, April 5, 2011, gave the American Public an alternative solution to health care reform legislation, focusing primarily on controlling growing entitlement programs. Entitlements are programs like Medicare which receive annual funding in the federal budget. The Ryan proposal would make major revisions to the structure of Medicare, turning it into a program where beneficiaries would receive vouchers to purchase private health insurance.
He argues by increasing their “skin in the game” beneficiaries will take a more active role in their health care, and this will lead to lower health care costs according to numerous economists. The problem, however, is the proposal does not consider the continuing rate in which health care costs are projected to rise and rise faster than entitlements. Other criticisms of the Republican Plan include an estimate by the non- partisan Congressional Budget Office anticipating only 1/3 of beneficiaries total out of pocket health care costs would be covered under the revision.
Ryan should be applauded, not vilified. The proposal does what it set out to do – controls entitlement spending and lowers the deficit. Unfortunately, it also overlooked a crucial element in modern politics – the backlash that comes from asking Americans, especially the elderly, to contribute more money out of pocket for health care costs. The Ryan proposal is an idea, and like any idea, it has its own shares of strengths and weaknesses. So instead of dismissing it, why not improve upon it? The White House has not shown adequate leadership on this issue, and that is problematic. Congressional leaders focus on the short term, delaying the inevitable. Both sides have legislation on record for scrutiny. Yet nobody has asked the obvious question, could the solution be somewhere in the middle? That is, after all, where the majority of their constituents identify politically, and it’s a bipartisan solution they desire.