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Medicare: Once Again a Political Hot Potato

It's budget time on Capitol Hill, and remaking Medicare is a hot topic.


On Sunday, Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), the chairman of the House Budget Committee, revealed some of his budget blueprint for  Medicare. He still wants to convert the program into a premium support system under which beneficiaries would get a set amount of money to buy insurance. But only people under the age 55 would be affected.

Ryan told Chris Wallace of Fox News that his new Medicare plan would harness "the power of choice" and competition. "This guarantees that Medicare does not change for people in or near retirement," he said, "and it also guarantees for those who of us who are under the age of 55 that we actually have a Medicare program when we retire."

Ryan said that his budget will keep the $716 billion in Medicare savings that were part of President Obama's health care initiative but toss out the rest of the law.

Republicans want Obama to feel that he'll have to persuade Democrats to agree to changes in such programs as Medicare and Social Security if there's going to be any budget deal this year, The Hill reports.

The Washington political newspaper pointed to Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) saying on CBS's "Face the Nation" that "What the president needs to do is to reach out not just to Republicans, but to Democrats, and to ensure that he gives them the political cover to do, frankly, what most of them know needs to be done."

But the prospect of finding such Democratic support doesn't look promising, judging from some of the letters circulating on Capitol Hill.

As Politico reports: "One hundred and seven of the 200 House Democrats signed a letter to Obama threatening to vote 'against any and every cut to Medicare, Medicaid or Social Security benefits - including raising the retirement age or cutting the cost of living adjustments that our constituents earned and need.'"

Instead, they want the White House to "rely on economic growth and more fair revenue-raising policies to solve our fiscal problems"- getting rid of subsidies for big businesses and raising taxes on the wealthiest Americans, for example.

"I only know one thing: I'm against cutting Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid," said Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.), the co-chairman of the Congressional Progressive Caucus. "I don't really care who is pushing it. It doesn't matter who says it's a good idea. It's a bad idea."

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