Real Medicare Reform: At Least Someone Is Serious

Dec 12, 2012

This week, buried in the midst of fiscal cliff drama, our nation took an important step forward in the ongoing fight for real Medicare reform when retiring Congressman Wally Herger (R-CA) introduced the Save and Strengthen Medicare Act.

By putting a Medicare premium support plan in legislative text, Rep. Herger has significantly advanced the debate about conservative health care solutions and resolving America's deep fiscal problems. Heritage describes the bill as the "most complete and detailed major Medicare reform proposal in a decade."

While both sides posture over the fiscal cliff, the introduction of the Herger Medicare reform bill is a glimmer of hope that our real fiscal problems can be addressed. If President Obama and others are serious about addressing our nation's fiscal woes, this bill is arguably the most comprehensive plan to deal with Medicare's insolvency and deep structural problems.

Liberals would have you believe that conservatives have no plans to improve health care for Americans. This detailed bill is the biggest repudiation yet of that argument, along with the comprehensive plan put out by the Heritage Foundation, Saving the American Dream. It is also a concept that both Republicans and Democrats have broadly supported. Former Senator John Breaux or Louisiana, Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon and former Congressional Budget Office Director Alice Rivlin have all publicly backed the idea of converting Medicare to a defined contribution structure.

The Herger Medicare reform bill closely resembles the structure of the Saving the American Dream Medicare plan put forward by the Heritage Foundation. It would improve care for seniors while ensuring the program's long-term solvency. Seniors would be allowed to choose between a menu private plans and traditional Medicare that are all competing for their business.

Competition holds down costs for seniors while incentivizing insurers to improve the quality of their coverage. Seniors could easily move between insurance plans if they do not like the coverage their receiving - a practice already common with open enrollment - or if they find another plan that better suits their needs. And contrary to the liberal narrative, seniors will always have a plan that they can afford.

Unfortunately, Rep. Herger will be retiring at the end of this year. Heritage says he will leave a "rich legacy" behind, and it will be incumbent upon "others in Congress will pick up the ball from here and get it over the goal line."

This is the type of bold proposal necessary to confront our fiscal challenges and reform a health care system struggling under the weight of the government. Even at this late date, we would encourage all members to support this bold and serious proposal.

Kudos to Wally Herger. This is exactly the type of reforms and leadership that we need