Bipartisan Medicare deal proposed in Washington

Scott Tong Dec 15, 2011

Steve Chiotakis: This morning, a right-wing Republican and left-wing Democrat have announced a plan to reform Medicare that may — that may — put policy over politics.

Marketplace’s Scott Tong is with us live from Washington with the latest on the plan. Good morning Scott.

Scott Tong: Hey, good morning Steve.

Chiotakis: All right, so talk about this plan.

Tong: Right now, the government promises seniors a certain set of benefits — doctor visits, medicine, hospital stays. But the problem is, medical inflation is skyrocketing; it’s the big piece of our government debt problem.

So before today, the Republican plan was to say, “OK seniors, we’re going to cut you a check, you’re on a fixed budget, go out and shop for a plan — but there are no guarantees of benefits.” And the Democrats said, “ugh uh.” Well, today’s is a hybrid. The seniors would still be able to go out and shop, but the Feds would put up enough money to buy at least the cheapest option out there. So that’s what’s on the table Steve.

Chiotakis: Now this is bipartisan, Scott — but what’s the likelihood, will all the acrimony in Washington, that this is gonna pass?

Tong: It doesn’t get any harder than healthcare in Washington.

I spoke just now to industry consultant Robert Lashefsky. He thinks the point in coming out with this now is actually to make it a campaign issue; bring it to the public.

Robert Lashefsky: If you’re gonna do something this big you have to build consensus in the country. It would politically it might be the right thing to hold off until after the elections. But you might have to take it through the next election cycle before you got it done. And this country needs to start solving the debt crisis now.

So Steve, it’s a little backwards for Washington. Instead of the party in charge ramming a bill down the throat of the opposition, the point here is to start with a notion of bipartisanship and then go from there.

Chiotakis: Well, we see how that works out. All right, Marketplace’s Scott Tong in Washington. Scott, thanks.

Tong: OK.

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