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House Budget Committee Hearing: Strengthening Health and Retirement Security

Chairman Paul Ryan
Opening Remarks, As Prepared for Delivery

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Washington, Feb 28, 2012 | comments

Welcome to today’s important hearing examining the structural challenges facing the federal government’s major health and retirement security programs.

We welcome back to the Committee the two foremost experts on the financial crunch facing Medicare and Social Security: the chief actuaries of each program.

We welcome Rick Foster, the chief actuary at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.  Rick’s nonpartisan analysis is second-to-none in illuminating the challenges in health care and the consequences of trying to squeeze savings from the rather blunt instrument of price controls. 

We also welcome Stephen Goss, the chief actuary at the Social Security Administration.   Stephen’s analyses should be required reading for policymakers, and we thank you for taking time out of your busy schedule to again unpack the facts and share your insights with us today.

For too long, politicians in Washington have not been honest with the American people – seniors in particular – about Medicare and Social Security.

Instead of engaging in an honest debate about the path forward to strengthen these programs, too many have offered little more than false political attacks and trillions of dollars in empty promises.

Today’s hearing is an effort to honestly assess the challenges facing these two programs, providing clarity to Congress as we work to advance sensible reforms and ensure that these critical 20th century programs can fulfill their important mission in the 21st century.

There is a very clear choice of two futures for both programs.

For Medicare:

  • We can follow the path set by the President’s health-care law and the additional Medicare cuts called for in his most recent budget request.  On this path, Medicare is raided to the tune of $500 billion to fund a new open-ended entitlement, and the fate of seniors’ care is left in the hands of 15 unelected, unaccountable bureaucrats in Washington. These bureaucrats are empowered to cut Medicare in ways that will result in restricted access and denied care for current seniors. Meanwhile, this path leaves Medicare bankrupt for future generations.

  • OR we can chart a brighter future for Medicare.  There is a growing bipartisan consensus for reforms that ensure no disruptions for those in or near retirement, while offering the next generation a patient-centered Medicare program that offers more choices and more security. 

For Social Security:

  • We can follow the path set by President Obama’s most recent budget request.  Failing to meet the test of leadership that he himself established, the President has hedged and dodged, but has yet to advance credible solutions to shore up Social Security’s fiscal imbalance.  As the Trustees have warned, the President’s unserious approach to Social Security will result in serious consequences for seniors: an across-the-board 23 percent benefit cut when the Trust Fund is exhausted – scheduled to hit when those entering the system today are in the heart of their retirement.

  • OR we can chart a brighter future for Social Security.  Similar to Medicare, I believe there is a growing consensus for sensible, gradual reforms that ensure no disruptions for those in or near retirement, while offering the next generation a program that reflects demographic reality, a more progressive benefit structure, and a solvent future.

I thank my colleagues here at the committee for engaging in this spirited debated with mutual respect and a shared commitment to make good on the promise of these critical programs.

We look forward to the testimony of our two esteemed witnesses, but before we do, I would like to yield to Ranking Member Van Hollen for his opening statement.

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