Outraged Democrats from Capitol Hill to the White House are denouncing Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR) for sponsoring a new Medicare “reform” bill with Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI). The House Republican budget authored by Ryan last spring, which would have transformed Medicare into a voucher program, left him and his party on the defensive with voters. But now conservatives are crowing. And Democrats are asking why Wyden would provide “bipartisan” cover for Ryan and the Republicans, just in time for the 2012 election?
Wyden’s explanation, which hasn’t satisfied many of his fellow Democrats, is that he has long sought a deal with Republicans on health care to extend coverage by controlling costs. While Ryan’s original plan did neither, but merely turned Medicare over to the private sector in a much diminished form, the Ryan-Wyden model would supposedly preserve traditional single-payer Medicare for those who prefer it while offering cheaper private health coverage funded by vouchers. In theory, at least, this approach would eventually reduce the burgeoning medical costs that have swamped federal and state budgets and burdened the U.S. economy.