House Republicans Face Heat At Home Over Proposed Medicare Cuts

During the congressional recess, constituents have grilled some House Republicans on how deficit reduction proposals will affect Medicare.  Meanwhile, Don Berwick says GOP plans deserve the "rationing" label more than the health law does.

The Washington Post: Republicans Facing Tough Questions Over Medicare Overhaul In Budget Plan
Anxiety is rising among some Republicans over the party's embrace of a plan to overhaul Medicare, with GOP lawmakers already starting to face tough questions on the issue at town hall meetings back in their districts. House leaders have scheduled a Tuesday conference call in which members are expected in part to discuss strategies for defending the vote they took this month on a budget that would transform the popular entitlement program as part of a plan to cut trillions in federal spending. ... The assault has taken some Republicans by surprise, prompting concerns that the party is ceding ground in a policy debate that GOP strategists already viewed as perilous (Wallsten, 4/22).

Los Angeles Times: House Republicans Face Backlash At Home Over Budget Plan
Republicans heard their core supporters urging them to take strong stands and hold fast on ... the debate over raising the federal debt limit. ... Here in Hillsborough, (N.H.,) a bedroom community in a state known for a fiscally conservative streak, (Rep. Charles) Bass painted a doomsday picture, saying the country would be "basically ruined" if it did not curb the growth of government. But a group of gray-haired constituents — most later identified themselves as Democrats — quickly pushed him back on his heels. He struggled to defend the GOP plan vigorously, once mischaracterizing a key element. By the time he left, he seemed less than wedded to the details (Hennessey, 4/23).

ABC News: Republican Lawmakers Face Angry, Confused Constituents On Medicare, Budget Cuts
Americans are particularly concerned, and somewhat confused, about the proposal to overhaul Medicare, a central feature of (Rep. Paul Ryan's) proposal. Under the plan, starting in 2022, senior citizens would be able to shop for coverage on insurance exchanges set up by their state, but instead of the federal government paying for every service as it currently does, each Medicare beneficiary would be allotted a certain amount of money based on their income. The age of Medicare eligibility would increase by two months every year until it reaches 67 in 2033. "What you're doing with this Ryan budget is you're taking Medicare and you're changing it from a guaranteed health care system to one that's a voucher system where you throw seniors ... on the mercy of for-profit insurance companies," railed one attendee at a town hall held by Rep. Lou Barletta, R-Penn (Khan, 4/25).

Politico: Freshmen Feel The Heat Back Home
Any lawmaker in a swing district can expect to take criticism from his right flank at a town hall meeting. But at an American Veterans outpost tucked deep in the Pocono Mountains this week, freshman Republican Rep. Lou Barletta took heat from every direction — from Democrats angry with the tax cuts in the GOP budget, to conservatives who thought he caved on the last continuing resolution vote, to a precocious 16-year-old critical of the lawmaker’s environmental record. ... And hardly anyone in his senior-heavy district wants to see Congress touch their Medicare benefits (Cogan, 4/24).

National Journal: Republicans In Swing Districts Take Heat For Supporting Ryan’s Medicare Plan
Republicans who used seniors' rage over health care changes to sweep into office last fall are now facing the same type of heat over the same issue: Modifications in Medicare and Medicaid. Many who voted for the plan House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan, R-Wis., laid out to privatize the programs in future years have been in constituents' crosshairs during Easter recess town-hall meetings. Others have simply avoided meeting with constituents. All but four House Republicans voted in favor of Ryan's plan. House Republican leaders plan to hold a conference call with members Tuesday. Republicans with knowledge of the call say that it has long been scheduled, but that part of the call will be spent discussing ways to discuss the vote with constituents. One source says it's intended to help swing-district members "who have been getting the crap kicked out of them" (Joseph, 4/25).

The Washington Post: For Conflicted Ryan Constituent, Budget Debate About More Than His Own Future
Ryan, the Republican chairman of the House Budget Committee, had returned to his district in southern Wisconsin to detail his 2012 budget proposal at a series of small community meetings, none of which turned out to be small. ... Seated in the sixth row of folding chairs, lost amid the commotion, a 64-year-old man in wire-rimmed glasses leaned forward and quietly raised his hand. Clarence Cammers had come to ask a question, one that had been weighing on his mind for the past two weeks. ... "I guess what I'm saying is, what are all these changes going to mean for my son?" (Saslow, 4/23).

ABC News: Is Paul Ryan's Medicare Proposal Like Obama's Health Care Plan?
President Obama has dubbed Rep. Paul Ryan's 2012 budget "fairly radical." The Republican congressman from Wisconsin has claimed the president's Affordable Care Act "is accelerating our country toward bankruptcy." Underneath the rhetoric, however, Ryan's plan to reform Medicare — a central part of his 2012 proposal — bears some glaring similarities to President Obama's health care plan. It calls for setting up exchanges for older Americans similar to those proposed in the Democrats' health care plan that were widely panned by Republicans, even rejected by state leaders such as Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin (Khan, 4/22).

Politico Pro: Berwick: Ryan Plan Is The Real Rationing
The man Republicans have derided as the "rationer-in-chief" charges that Republicans' own budget proposals would end up rationing care to millions of Americans on Medicare and Medicaid. "It is paradoxical really that with all this talk of rationing, the proposal we hear about how to fix American health care is to take it away from people. That's from the very people who are crying rationing," Don Berwick, the administrator of CMS, said in a wide-ranging interview with Politico. "If you look at the proposed withdrawals of support to Medicare beneficiaries and Medicaid, it's withholding care from the people who need the care. You tell me what that is" (Haberkorn, 4/25).

Bloomberg: Coburn Says Medicare, Medicaid Spending Must Be Included In Budget Talks
Medicare and Medicaid programs must be part of the U.S. effort to reduce the budget deficit, Senator Tom Coburn said. "You can't have Medicare out of the equation," Coburn, an Oklahoma Republican and member of the Senate Budget Committee, said on NBC’s "Meet the Press" program broadcast today. "You can't have Medicaid out of the equation. To lead on this issue and create a false predicate that says we can solve our problems without addressing our entitlements hurts the country" (Katz and Hamilton, 4/24). 

This is part of Kaiser Health News' Daily Report - a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. The full summary of the day's news can be found here and you can sign up for e-mail subscriptions to the Daily Report here. In addition, our staff of reporters and correspondents file original stories each day, which you can find on our home page.