Congressman supported 2009 plan to turn Medicare into voucher system
BOZEMAN, Mont.—Lobbyist-turned-Congressman Dennis Rehberg again failed to hold himself accountable by refusing to explain why, in 2009, he voted to end Medicare as we know it during tonight’s U.S. Senate debate in Bozeman.
During the final debate before Election Day, Montana farmer Jon Tester asked Rehberg point-blank why he supported an amendment by Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., turning Medicare into a voucher system.
The Medicare change was part of Ryan’s substitute amendment to House Concurrent Resolution 84, which failed to pass despite Rehberg’s vote. Text of the legislation is online HERE.
TITLE III–CONGRESSIONAL POLICY STATEMENTS
SEC. 301. POLICY STATEMENT ON MEDICARE.
(a) Medicare Policy.–It is the policy of this concurrent resolution that Congress will enact legislation to ensure the Medicare benefit continues to provide health care coverage for seniors by establishing a new methodology to make the program solvent and fiscally sustainable. Legislation shall be enacted that:
(1) Expands protections for seniors against catastrophic medical costs, simplifies beneficiary contributions, updates Medicare payments, increases flexibility for hospitals serving unusually high numbers of low-income patients, and reduces the prescription drug benefit subsidy for high-income seniors (household incomes over $170,000). To ensure that the cost of frivolous litigation is not passed on to beneficiaries, the medical malpractice system is reformed.
(2) Preserves the current Medicare program for individuals 55 and older. For those under 55, the resolution gradually converts the current Medicare program into one in which Medicare beneficiaries receive a premium support payment–equivalent to 100 percent of the cost of the Medicare benefit–to purchase health coverage from a menu of Medicare-approved plans, similar to options available to Members of Congress. The premium support payment is risk-adjusted to increase with age and health status, and income-related so low-income seniors receive extra support. Premiums continue to be based on an all-beneficiary average, so the phasing of the younger population into the new program will not increase premiums for the population continuing in the existing program.
(b) Force and Effect of the Medicare Trigger.–The Medicare trigger as set forth in section 803 of the Medicare Prescription Drug, Improvement, and Modernization Act of 2003 shall apply during the 111th Congress.
Rehberg was caught off guard and visibly flustered by Tester’s question, and falsely claimed he never voted for the measure.
Rehberg’s plan to radically overhaul Medicare was widely criticized because it would increase the out-of-pocket costs seniors pay for health care.
Unlike Rehberg, Tester believes Medicare is a sacred promise. Tester is a fierce advocate for the initiative that serves one in five Montanans and has strong record of protecting and strengthening Medicare.
Tester concluded the debate with a promise to Montanans that he would continue to fight for Montana values asked for their vote on November 6th.