QUESTION FROM TOWN HALL ATTENDEE: I'm 48 years old. So, I'm in the age group that would be impacted to the changes to the Medicare program under the so-called Ryan Plan. I'm also the caretaker of an elderly parent, as is common in my age group. How can I be certain that Medicare will be affordable for me when it comes time for me to retire, especially considering I've been paying in for 30 years?
PAUL RYAN: I’m the Ryan guy – so I guess I’ll answer the question. A few facts that are not in dispute:
Fact number one, we have 10,000 baby boomers retiring every day and fewer workers coming in to pay taxes to pay for the program.
Fact number two, health care costs are skyrocketing at about four times the rate of inflation, which is threatening Medicare's current ability to provide affordable accessible care.
Fact number three, all the independent experts agree, Medicare's going bankrupt.
Medicare, along with Social Security, I would argue, are the most important federal programs we have. And so, what we want to do is save and strengthen the program. If you have retired already or if you're 55 and above and you're about to retire, government made a promise to you. We should keep that promise. So we don't change the program for anybody above the age of 55. But in order to be able to do that, in order to cash flow that promise, prevent that bankruptcy from hitting my mom who's on Medicare – you know, my mom and I took care of my grandmother when she was on Alzheimer's on Medicare, this is very important to me, personally, as well – you've got to fix it for the next generation, if you want to keep it for the current generation.
And the way in which we propose to fix Medicare for those 54 and below is to have a system that works like the one we have in Congress, like the one that President Clinton's bipartisan commission to save Medicare proposed in the late 1990s. It's an idea that's had bipartisan support in the past. It's called premium support. It works just like Medicare Advantage today, Medicare prescription drugs, Medicare supplemental – you get a list of plans that Medicare preapproves that are guaranteed coverage options that you select from. These plans compete against each other for your business. And then Medicare subsidizes that plan based on who you are. If you're a wealthy person, we don't think taxpayers should subsidize their health care as much as everybody else. If you're a lower income person or if you're a person who keeps getting sicker, we think you should have increased subsidies. And so, what we say, is starting for the 54 and below crowd, when they turn 65, is take what we spend per person on Medicare, apply it to these people and adjust it like I said: less for the wealthy, more for the poor and the sick, so that they can have plans to choose from and use choice and competition.
Here's the alternative. The president passed a law, it's in law, Obamacare – I know people don't like it being called Obamacare, The current health care law raids half a trillion dollars from Medicare to spend on this new health care law. And then it puts a board of 15 unelected, unaccountable bureaucrats in charge of cutting Medicare for current seniors through price controls, which will lead to providers dropping care, which will lead to rationing, which will hurt the actual program for current seniors. We repeal this rationing board. We repeal the raid of Medicare. We think Medicare funds should go to Medicare, not other programs. How many times have you heard that since Social Security? And then we save it for the next generation, so that we can cash flow the promise and keep it for the current generation. So, when you turn 65, you'll have a program that will be there for you.
At the age you are, 48, I'm not that much younger than you, Medicare is not going be there for us if we don't do anything to save it. It is going bankrupt. The sooner we act on this, the better off we are, and the more gradual the necessary reforms can be. If we fail to act, it will be austerity. It will be painful benefit cuts to current seniors, tax increases on everybody like young people that slows down our economy, if we keep kicking the can down the road.
It is a political careerism around here that has put is in the mess we are in. We need leaders to step up. We put a plan out there. I don't expect everybody to like the plan – but at least we put a plan out there. I would love to see our partners on the other side of the aisle put their alternative solutions out there, so we can get to the business of actually solving this problem.
Learn more about the CBS News’ town hall on jobs and the economy here.
Watch a web video by Paul Ryan on The Facts on Medicare and How to Save It here.
To learn more about the House-passed FY2012 budget – The Path to Prosperity:http://budget.house.gov/fy2012budget/