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With Medicare cuts coming, GOP prepares another push for vouchers

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Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI)
Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI)

House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI) is working on a proposed budget that would revamp the Medicare program. Republicans believe the option of turning Medicare into a voucher program may win support despite uncertainty over the effects of $85 billion in automatic spending cuts that began last Friday, the Los Angeles Times reports.

With sequestration in effect, a 2% reduction in Medicare payments will begin April 1. Healthcare providers have protested the cuts, with nursing home advocates saying this is just the latest of many substantial reductions in recent years.  However, Ryan is seeking greater Medicare and Medicaid cost savings to fashion a budget that will balance in 10 years. His proposal will likely entail giving seniors vouchers they could use to purchase private insurance or traditional Medicare coverage, according to the L.A. Times. The changes would not apply to current beneficiaries.

While President Barack Obama has said he is not in favor of Medicare vouchers, the president said he is willing to negotiate. The White House has suggested means testing and changing to a pay-for-performance system as possible reforms. Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-OH) has said he wants to raise the eligibility age from 65 to 67.

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