The Medicare test for president

Why, then, do some politicians want to keep putting off what everyone knows are needed fixes? The entitlement debate has long been plagued by Republicans who don’t dare and Democrats who don’t care. Fortunately, the House GOP now has members who do dare. Under the 10-year budget outline proposed by Rep. Paul Ryan (R., Wis.) and approved last month by the House with the support of all but four Republicans, Medicare would be preserved for future generations by slowing its growth rate without reducing current benefits.

And yet this plan has been attacked by congressional Democrats as “dangerous” and “ending Medicare as we know it”—one TV ad literally shows grandma being thrown off a cliff—while Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich this past Sunday criticized it as “too big a jump” and “right-wing social engineering.”

Whoa, that does sound like a pretty “radical” plan. But which part is the radical one? Is it the provision that guarantees that today’s Medicare benefits and eligibility remain exactly as they are for seniors born before 1956, and for everyone else for the remainder of this decade? Or is it the part that gradually raises the retirement age to 67 from 65 over a period of 12 years starting in 2022? Or is it the section that gives all beneficiaries a lot more coverage options, similar to the array of health-plan choices currently enjoyed by members of Congress?