Bipartisan legislation on Medicare unveiled

John Dimsdale Dec 16, 2011

Jeremy Hobson: Well amid all the wrangling over the spending bill — and the payroll tax cut, and lightbulbs — there was this strangely bipartisan proposal to reform Medicare. It came yesterday from Republican Congressman Paul Ryan and Democratic Senator Ron Wyden. The thing is, right now doesn’t really seem like the best time to launch a major legislative proposal on such a controversial issue. So why did they do it?

Here’s Our Washington bureau chief John Dimsdale.

John Dimsdale: The Wyden/Ryan proposal would offer seniors the option of getting their medical services from the government, or from private insurance plans. But the lawmakers aren’t introducing any legislation.

Congressional scholar Thomas Mann at the Brookings Institution says the two sponsors are looking beyond legislative gridlock. 

Thomas Mann: The only conceivable reason is to shape the way in which Medicare is a part of the 2012 election campaign. 

So why put a proposal on the table so early? The Urban Institute’s Judy Feder says Representative Ryan wants to repair the political shellacking his earlier proposal to privatize Medicare received.

Judy Feder:  He is proposing something kinder and gentler than what he’s had on the table in order to win over the millions of people he scared with his original proposal. 

Some political strategy experts say the Medicare reformers could’ve picked a better week to make a splash with their idea.

In Washington, I’m John Dimsdale for Marketplace.

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