Within less than a month, Sen. Scott Brown (R-MA) has gone from thanking God that Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) had proposed phasing out Medicare to penning a blistering op-ed explaining why he now opposes the idea.
Brown now says he’ll vote against the House GOP budget when Democrats bring it up for a vote in the Senate, completing the walkback he began shortly after he said he’d vote for the plan. He explains his final views in a Monday Politico op-ed, becoming the first high-profile, moderate Republican to actively explain his opposition — and his critique sounds an awful lot like the one Democrats are making.
“I cannot support his specific plan — and therefore will vote “no” on his budget,” Brown writes. “First, I fear that as health inflation rises, the cost of private plans will outgrow the government premium support– and the elderly will be forced to pay ever higher deductibles and co-pays. Protecting those who have been counting on the current system their entire adult lives should be the key principle of reform.”
Second, Medicare has already taken significant cuts to help pay for Obama’s health care plan. The president and Congress cut a half trillion dollars to the private side of Medicare — meaning seniors are at risk of losing their Medicare Advantage coverage….
We should start by making improvements to the traditional Medicare plan.
The Government Accountability Office has estimated that nearly 10 percent, or $47 billion, of annual Medicare spending is nothing but waste, fraud or abuse. Attorney General Eric Holder has put the number higher — at $60 billion. We need Medicare administrators to work to prevent these improper payments — instead of the existing “pay and chase” model that makes the system so susceptible to fraud.
We can also find savings by increasing congressional oversight of how Medicare reimburses providers; as well as improving the quality of medical care to seniors.
It’s particularly devastating for Republicans who’ve already voted for the plan, or have expressed support for it. Their best hope for weathering the ensuing political storm has been that national figures in the GOP — like, say, Scott Brown — would back the plan, or at least refrain from criticizing it so heavily. By attacking the plan from the left, he validates the view that the GOP budget is far out of the mainstream. You can see the toll the schism’s taking on party leaders, who are now leaking stories about how they saw the backlash coming and warned against holding the vote. Pretty brazen.
There’s a second layer of irony here in that his alternative vision for reining in Medicare spending — new fraud prevention programs, delivery system and payment reforms — are pilot programs and demonstration projects in the health care reform law that Brown has voted to repeal, and that Republicans have broadly attacked as government rationing.