What editorial writers are saying about plans to reduce the federal deficit

President Obama and House Budget Committee Chair Paul Ryan (R, Wis.) have made very different federal deficit-trimming proposals that would affect Medicare and Medicaid.

Posted May 9, 2011.

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Editorial writers are voicing concerns about the elderly and poor losing health care and say some remedies seem drastic. But they also say costs can't be brought under control without entitlement cutbacks.

The other Medicare cutters

Mr. Ryan has been lambasted for linking his "premium support" Medicare subsidies to inflation, not the rate of health cost growth. But if that's as unrealistic as the liberal wise men claim, then Mr. Obama's goals are even more so. Medicare grew 2.1 percentage points faster between 1985 and 2009 than Mr. Obama's new GDP target. At least Mr. Ryan is proposing a workable model for bringing costs down over time by changing incentives. The Wall Street Journal, April 20

The new Republican landscape

[Ryan's] bill would end the guarantee provided by Medicare and Medicaid to the elderly and the poor, which has been provided by the federal government with society's clear assent since 1965. The elderly, in particular, would be cut adrift by Mr. Ryan. People now under 55 would be required to pay at least $6,400 more for health care when they qualified for Medicare, according to the Congressional Budget Office. The New York Times, April 17

Can Medicare be saved?

Despite the ideological gulf between Republicans and Democrats, the right path for Congress would be to incorporate into last year's law the elements of Ryan's plan that promote more cost-sensitive consuming and more competitive markets without ending the commitment to affordable health care to seniors and the poor. The result may not curb federal costs as dramatically, but it would do considerably more to slow the growth of health care spending as a whole. Los Angeles Times, April 17

Obama, Ryan know you can't handle the truth on Medicare

Both approaches are flawed. Even if Obama could give Medicare vast new powers to negotiate directly with providers, his plan would still fall short. What he doesn't say is that tactics such as higher premiums, larger co-pays and gaps in coverage known as "doughnut holes" would still be necessary to control the program's huge costs. Seniors' choices would almost certainly be restricted. USA Today, April 17

Medicare can't be "untouchable" if federal deficit is to be brought under control

President Barack Obama's proposed solution is essentially to have a committee of experts examine ways to hold down expenses. That's an iffy endeavor, given the federal government's poor record of running programs efficiently. The Detroit News, April 17

A time for courage

Obama's plan is better balanced than Ryan's, but it's woefully short on details and thus difficult to evaluate. Our fear is that the president is politically incapable of making the difficult changes to entitlements that will make these programs sustainable. He flatly rejects fundamental changes to Medicare and Medicaid and seems particularly averse to market-based ideas. He's wearing blinders. Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, April 16

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