By Teresa Welsh |
GOP vice presidential candidate Rep. Paul Ryan's Medicare reform proposal is not one of the top issues voters want the candidates to focus on this year. Their top priorities are job growth and dealing with the deficit.
Ryan's Path to Prosperity was roundly criticized earlier this year with the most withering criticism coming from the Congressional Budget Office. The CBO found that people would end up paying more than under traditional Medicare.
So why has Medicare re-emerged as election issue number one? Because it provides President Barack Obama with his biggest opportunity to attack Mitt Romney since Romney became the presumptive GOP nominee. All this talk is partisan hyperventilating. Medicare reform will not be a key part of Romney's first term agenda. After the heavy losses Democrats suffered in the midterm elections of 2010 over Obamacare, I doubt Republicans want to go through the same.
The biggest threat to Medicare will not come from the White House, but the states. Most red states are resting their opposition to expanding Medicaid on the Supreme Court's Affordable Care and Patient Protection ruling. It stripped the federal government's ability to require states to comply with certain rules when accepting Medicaid grants. It's not a stretch to assume that states would pursue a similar strategy to shrink Medicare at some point in the near future.
Even if Romney wins the presidency, his ability to change Medicare is limited. Presidents are much less effective when it comes to pushing their domestic agenda than their foreign policy plans. There are far too many competing interests involved. Lobbyists, politicians, and other stakeholders would come together to block any bill from passage. Ryan's plan is dead on arrival. It's been posted on the refrigerator door for all to admire, but none to consider.
About Jamie Chandler Political Scientist at Hunter College
Ethan Rome Executive Director of Health Care for America Now
James Capretta Fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center
Nina Owcharenko Director of the Heritage Foundation's Center for Health Policy Studies
Joseph Antos Wilson H. Taylor Scholar at the American Enterprise Institute