Rep. Ryan as VP nominee and health policy

Rep. Ryan has focused a good deal on health policy during his career as a legislator. However, he has not used his power as Chair of the Budget Committee in the House of Representatives to push ahead into the nitty gritty of passing health reform legislation.

One of the highlights of the 2012 FY House budget passed during Spring 2011 was a general outline of Rep. Ryan’s proposal to eventually replace traditional Medicare with a voucher provided to Seniors with which to purchase private health insurance. In December of 2011, he modified his proposal, joining Democratic Sen. Ron Wyden in issuing a proposal that would allow Seniors a choice between traditional Medicare and purchasing private insurance coverage with a voucher provided by the federal government, whose amount was to be set by competitive bidding (Sen Wyden details his opposition to the Romney/Ryan plans here).

Putting the outline of this Medicare proposal into the budget resolution in 2011 turned out to be mostly for show; the nitty gritty of such a complicated proposal would have to be authorized by detailed legislation, and could not be done in a Budget resolution. House Republicans could have started the hard work of hammering out the details of this Medicare proposal, holding hearings, committee mark ups, CBO scores and eventually votes during the 19 months they have controlled the House of Representatives. Instead, they did nothing. For all the hubub of the 2011 budget resolution, neither the Commerce Committee nor the Ways and Means Committee–where the heavy legislative lifting will have to be done– ever took up the Medicare premium support idea at all. Not in its original, or the modified form Rep. Ryan espoused in December 2011.

Rep. Ryan also co-sponsored the Patients’ Choice Act (PCA, introduced May 20, 2009) that focuses on setting up insurance exchanges with soft individual mandates for the under 65 age group–what I called in July 2009 the most comprehensive Republican health reform alternative introduced into the last Congress. I have blogged a great deal about Rep. Ryan’s bill (co-sponsored by Nunes in House, and Burr and Coburn in Senate) (here, here, here, here,  here, here,  here, here) and it is a serious proposal.

However, the most important thing to know about the Patients’ Choice Act is that it has never been marked up by a House Committee or scored by the CBO. This was understandable during 2009-10 when the Democratic party controlled the House, but during the past 19 months that Republicans have controlled the House, not committing to the details of “replace” was a choice. And given the clarity with which House Republicans knew what they were against, what does it mean that none of the relevant committees (Ways and Means, Commerce, Ryan’s own Budget) even gave Ryan’s bill a hearing?

I suspect that it means that none of the committees (much less the entire House) could have passed any proposal to alter Medicare in the way envisioned by Rep. Ryan, and that a mark up of the Patients’ Choice Act would have highlighted the similarities between what Ryan was for one month before the first version of the ACA was reported by a committee in June 2009, and what became law in the ACA.

My book has a detailed comparison of the Patients’ Choice Act and the ACA that identifies what I claim in to be a bipartisan way ahead on health reform based on my reading of the ACA and Ryan’s PCA. In policy terms, a deal has always been available, and if President Obama is re-elected, I suspect a health reform deal of some sort will be cut in the next Congress, as a part of a larger deal on taxes, etc.

If Gov. Romney and Rep. Ryan win, then I assume that means Republicans will keep the House and retake the Senate. I fully expect under those circumstances that the ACA will be repealed. Lots of my friends are worried about what the Republicans will then put in place of the ACA. I am actually more worried that they would do what they have done the past 19 months in the House on replace: nothing.

This was cross posted at freeforall.

Author: Don Taylor

Don Taylor is an Associate Professor of Public Policy at Duke University, where his teaching and research focuses on health policy, with a focus on Medicare generally, and on hospice and palliative care, specifically. He increasingly works at the intersection of health policy and the federal budget. Past research topics have included health workforce and the economics of smoking. He began blogging in June 2009 and wrote columns on health reform for the Raleigh, (N.C.) News and Observer. He blogged at The Incidental Economist from March 2011 to March 2012. He is the author of a book, Balancing the Budget is a Progressive Priority that will be published by Springer in May 2012.

6 thoughts on “Rep. Ryan as VP nominee and health policy”

  1. I’m definitely betting on nothing. Heritage Foundation support for the individual mandate was never a policy position. It was a tactic intended to gum up the works in the hopes that the end result would be nothing. Whether you see Obama as a wily strategist or a lucky wimp, the Democrats’ acceptance of the individual mandate took the right by surprise.

    Included under “nothing” I would list market crack-pottery like abrogating all state health insurance regulation, so that we have access to never-pay policies (cf. Monty Python). Since Republicans will be doing this, it will not be an attack on states’ rights.

  2. This extended exchange between Ryan and Tim Geithner is interesting — the two agree that there are significant long term health care cost challenges for the economy, but Geithner can’t quite bring himself all the way to telling Ryan that his “plan” “solves” the problem with preposterous magical asterisks and block grants.

  3. Can I challenge the members of this community to tell me what Paul Ryan’s two legislative achievements are, in the 13 years he has so far spent in the Beltway? What are the two pieces of legislation which he actually proposed and got passed?

    1. According to reports, one was the naming of post office and the other was federal regulation of arrows in a manner designed to inconvenience native americans. Terribly substantive.

      1. Perfect, Paul. Ain’t it grand? We pay Paul Ryan roughly 2 million in taxpayer money over 13 years – and get bupkes in return. And, to add to the hypocrisy, he’s voted for every bail-out since 2001!

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