(Ron Wyden: Yuri Gripas/Reuters, Paul Ryan: Kevin Lamarque/Reuters)
“Despite Wyden’s claims otherwise, the Wyden-Ryan plan ends Medicare as we know it, plain and simple. If these two get their way, senior citizens’ health coverage will depend on what big insurance offers and what seniors — most of them on modest, fixed incomes — can afford. That combination will jeopardize health and economic security for seniors.”
Rep. Jim McDermott (D-WA) adds: "I don’t know why Ron Wyden is giving cover" to Ryan. And a Democratic aide sums it up pretty well:
“For starters, this is bad policy and a complete political loser,” this aide said. “On top of the terrible politics, they even admit that it dismantles Medicare but achieves no budgetary savings while doing so — the worst of all worlds. Thanks for nothing.”
The lamest thing about the whole plan is that there's no reason to think that turning Medicare into a voucher program—even if it's a voucher program with a public option—will save money over the current system. In fact, Ryan and Wyden rely on a trigger to reduce costs, just like the debt ceiling deal.
Ryan and Wyden both contend that, when it’s finally drafted, their legislation will score as a cost saver, because it includes an enforcement mechanism: if Congress can’t find health care savings on its own, the plan automatically caps spending on the program and allows it to grow at a rate lower than medical inflation.
Triggers didn't work with the debt ceiling and they won't work with Medicare.
Also, note that while the Ryan-Wyden plan is similar to what Obamacare would have been like with a public option, the difference is Medicare already is an efficient single-payer system that provides universal coverage, while the individual insurance market is not only inefficient, it fails to cover tens of millions of Americans. So even though the plans look similar, it's important to compare them to what currently exists.