ABC News' Sunlen Miller (@sunlenmiller) reports:
The Senate Democratic leadership came out today and reaffirmed that Medicare cuts should not be on the table during the debt ceiling discussions.
“Seniors can't afford it,” Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said following today’s policy luncheons, “The vast majority of the American people, including most Republicans, do not support changing Medicare as we know it, that piece of legislation that came from the House.”
“That” piece of legislation would be the Paul Ryan plan, “The Path to Prosperity” which cuts the budget deficit by roughly $5 trillion over the next 10 years.
The Ryan plan completely overturns the new health care law and proposes a major reform to Medicaid and Medicare. Medicaid would switch to a block grant system, meaning the federal government would allocate money to states, giving them more flexibility in how they tailor their programs for the poor. Currently, the federal government matches every dollar that states spend on Medicaid and the formula varies from state to state
Today, Senator Schumer, D-NY., said it is not acceptable to Democrats to even accept a “mini” Ryan plan.
“The Ryan plan to end Medicare as we know it must be taken off the table, but Republicans should know that we will not support any mini version plan of ‘Ryan’ either,” Schumer said, “We want to make our position on Medicare perfectly clear. No matter what we do in these debt-limit talks, we must preserve the program in its current form, and we will not allow cuts to seniors' benefits. “
Schumer said that does not mean that Democrats do not want to do anything about Medicare – that they will continue to look for waste, fraud, duplication and inefficient in the system to find savings.
“But we will not go along with any cuts to beneficiaries, as Republicans want, as shown by the Ryan plan,” Schumer emphasized, “ If Senator McConnell has other ideas for Medicare in mind, he should say what they are. Let's hear them. Until then, the only plan they have put forward, the one that all but five Senate Republicans voted for, is the plan to dismantle Medicare. We will never let that pass, or anything like it.”
Reid and Schumer’s comments come as Vice President Biden is on the Hill today, meeting with the bipartisan, bicameral group – the first of three meetings that will be held this week.
Reid pointed a finger at the Republicans – saying that their plan to change Medicare would mean putting “the insurance companies between the patients and their doctors. It would raise seniors' drug prices. It would open the doughnut hole, which we have begun to fill. It would force them to pay $6,400 a year extra, beginning in the first year if they change Medicare as they want to.”
The Republicans today, after their own policy luncheon, said that Democrats are using “scare-tactics and half truths” to try to “scare senior” about Medicare, “and use half-truths about our efforts as Republicans to give people more choices when it comes to Medicare and help strengthen and secure Medicare, not just for those currently on Medicare, but for future generations.”
Senator John Barrasso, R-WY., pointed to a CBS poll released yesterday showing that 53% of Americans says something has to be done about Medicare.
“It is going to change,” Barrasso said, “and as somebody who's taken care of Medicare patients for 25 years, practicing orthopedic surgery in Casper, Wyoming, I know a lot about the program. I know how important it is to our seniors and to our country, and I'm going to do everything I can to save it for not just our seniors today, but for future seniors as well.”