Yesterday, Rep. Jeb Hensarling, a staunch fiscal conservative who's co-chairing the deficit supercommittee, chided Democrats for refusing to consider a Medicare reform plan with bipartisan origins:
Rep. Jeb Hensarling said he believes Democrats "have negotiated in good faith" but so far they have not produced a plan that fundamentally addresses the major drivers of the debt: Medicare, Medicaid and health care.
"Republicans put a plan on the table that solved the problem," Hensarling, R-Texas, said. "They rejected it and we said, ‘O.K., if you don't like our plan, how about a bipartisan plan?' We would be willing to negotiate around the Rivlin-Domenici Medicare plan. It's not our version, it's a bipartisan version. That's something maybe we could meet on [but] we haven't seen that."
I don't know whether it would "solve the problem," but Hensarling is right that the Rivlin-Domenici plan is a bipartisan one. Devised by Clinton budget director Alice Rivlin and former Republican senator Pete Domenici (who are members of the Bipartisan Policy Center), the plan isn't perfect, but it represents a credible strategy for reforming Medicare to improve quality and control government spending. The basic idea would be to introduce market forces into the insurance market for seniors by capping spending growth and allowing private plans to bid against traditional Medicare to offer insurance in a gven area.
Hensarling has introduced the Rivlin-Domenici plan in supercommittee negotiations because it really could be a useful compromise point. In other words, it would address the debt problem in a way that could be acceptable to both Republicans and Democrats.
It's worth noting that Mitt Romney's platform for reforming Medicare is very similar to the Rivlin-Domenici model, meaning that Hensarling is probably on the same page as Romney. One major difference between Hensarling's and Romney's support for this particular approach is that Hensarling is proposing it as a final compromise. It's Romney's opening bid.
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