Aug. 16--GOP vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan's proposal to overhaul Medicare would end the program "as it's been," Sen. Al Franken said Wednesday.
Franken's comments came after a tour of St. Benedict's Senior Community in St. Cloud, during which he met with residents and staff.
As chairman of the House Budget Committee, the GOP congressman from Wisconsin who is now Mitt Romney's running mate, authored a budget proposal that would remake Medicare, the national health insurance program for seniors. Under his plan, future seniors would be issued vouchers, or premium supports, to buy traditional Medicare or private health coverage. The premium support plan only would affect people who are younger than age 55.
Franken, DFL-Minn., said Ryan "has a different philosophy" on future changes to Medicare.
"I've seen his proposals and his budgets, and we disagree," Franken said Wednesday. "He wants to essentially end Medicare as it's been, and in 10 years give vouchers to seniors and really cut their benefits by about 30 percent."
Franken's staff cited a report from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office saying new-enrollee Medicare spending would rise much more slowly in future years under the Ryan plan than under the current program, with Medicare spending about 35 percent less by 2050.
Franken's critique echoes the argument from fellow Democrats that the Ryan plan would "end Medicare as we know it."
Republican backers of the Ryan plan say drastic changes are needed to contain Medicare's projected cost increases spurred by a flood of baby boomer enrollees and the overall trend of rising health care costs.
Franken, who sits on a Senate committee that oversees health care issues, said he would address the cost of Medicare by paying health care providers differently, moving the program away from its current fee-for-service reimbursement model.
"We need to preserve Medicare the way it is," Franken said. "We have to change the way we deliver Medicare and reward value and not reward volume. The fee-for-service model, I think, is the model that drives up the costs."
Franken, 61, said he spoke with St. Benedict's administrators about easing regulatory challenges related to Medicare.
A highlight of the visit, he added, was his lunchtime conversations with St. Benedict's residents.
"What's really kind of great is folks at this age who don't really have any issues left about their life in terms of ? what they have to accomplish or anything like that, who can be very serene. And I find it actually very comforting to come here," Franken said, laughing. "I actually enjoy it tremendously."
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