In an op-ed for USA Today, Mitt Romney explains how he would cut federal spending. He lists a number of cuts that would bring spending down by $500 billion by the end of his first term, and acknowledges that long-term spending restrating will require reforming Medicare. Here's how he would do it:
Reforms should not affect current seniors or those near retirement, and tax hikes should be off the table....
Tomorrow's Medicare should give beneficiaries a generous defined contribution and allow them to choose between private plans and traditional Medicare. And lower-income future retirees should receive the most assistance. I believe that competition will improve Medicare and the coverage that seniors receive.
Although this is only the broadest of outlines, it seems like Romney has something like the plan developed by Alice Rivlin and Pete Domenici of the Bipartisan Policy Center. See, for instance, this recent testimony by Rivlin:
Romney will have to offer more details about his plan before it can fully be evaluated, but at the very least it should be noted that an approach along these lines could yield significant Medicare savings, and would almost certainly improve the quality of Medicare.
There are at least two reasons why Paul Ryan's premium support model could prove to be a better choice. In terms of policy, Romney's Medicare reform might be easier for a Democratic president to reverse, because it would keep traditional Medicare in place. Politically, it's more feasible than the Ryan plan, but that could also prove to be a weakness: it's not a strong opening bid. All the same, the fact that Romney is sketching out a plan for reforming entitlements is probably one reason that Ryan is comfortable with the prospect of a Romney presidency.
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