Faith and Freedom Coalition founder Ralph Reed predicted Friday that President Barack Obama’s non-plan to reform Medicare will “lead to rationing and bankruptcy,” and urged his fellow conservatives to “unapologetically” make the case to voters people that market-based solutions are better way to fix a system that no one believes is sustainable.
In an exclusive Newsmax.TV interview, Reed cited various studies showing unfunded Medicare liabilities at between $17 trillion and $30 trillion. That sum dwarfs even the national debt, which currently stands at $14.3 trillion.
Reed’s interview took place during the Faith and Freedom Coalition conference in Washington, D.C., which drew most of the major GOP presidential prospects to the Nation’s Capitol.
President Barack Obama, with an eye toward winning re-election in 2012, has proposed leaving major entitlement programs largely untouched – except for the $500 billion Democrats took out of the Medicare system in projected “savings,” in order to pay for the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, better known to conservatives as ObamaCare.
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Republicans have been on the defensive every since Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., unveiled a plan to stave off Medicare’s insolvency by offering vouchers to beneficiaries below 55 years of age. Polls show voters are overwhelmingly skittish about any plans to alter the social contract related to Medicare and Social Security. But conservatives continue to point out the alternative to reforming Medicare is to simply stand by as it becomes insolvent, probably endangering the fiscal status of the United States in the process.
Under Ryan’s plan, recipients would use government-issued vouchers to purchase their own healthcare coverage in private markets. The plan would save an estimated $6.2 trillion over the next decade, but Democrats have complained that it achieves those savings disproportionately on the backs of the poor and aged.
The irony of the Democratic attacks on the Ryan plan, Reed says, is that market-based proposals would actually save Medicare, while the status quo embraced by President Obama would push the country closer to the brink of bankruptcy.
Obama has proposed to control rising Medicare costs by expanding the power of the 15-member Independent Payment Advisory Board, which was created in the ObamaCare legislation to regulate healthcare costs.
Obama wants to use it to pare down Medicare services as well, but leaders in both parties have shown little inclination to turn over the fate of a major entitlement program to an anonymous panel of technocrats.
“What Barack Obama is proposing is a 15-member panel of faceless, nameless bureaucrats, who will unilaterally cut reimbursement rates to doctors, hospitals, and nursing homes,” Reed says.
According to Reed, the Congressional Budget Office and the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid services have projected that 41 percent of healthcare providers will simply withdraw from providing Medicare services, once the Payment Advisory Board makes the necessary reductions. Participation in Medicare will simply no longer be affordable for many doctors and clinics, he says.
“That leads to rationing, that leads to deep cuts, draconian cuts, and the fact that you can’t find a doctor who will take Medicare,” Reed told Newsmax. “So Obama’s plan, whether he admits it or not, leads first to rationing and ultimately to bankruptcy.
“And the plan that Paul Ryan and Republicans are proposing leads to fiscal solvency, and allows seniors to have more choices and quality healthcare,” he added. “So I think the choice is pretty clear. And I think if we will unapologetically go out there and make it clear that if we don’t reform this system, there is rationing followed by bankruptcy.
That’s what happens under the status quo. Barack Obama has presented no plan around that status quo, and Republicans have.”
Other highlights from the exclusive Newsmax.TV interview with Reed:
- There is a “huge overlap,” he says, among tea party conservatives and social conservatives. “There’s no way to follow a road to the nomination without going through the toll booth that is the tea party vote and the social conservative vote,” he says.
- Reed said there are 11 GOP primary states where social conservatives will be a majority of the voters, and another 10 states where social conservatives will represent from 33 percent to 50 percent of the vote. “So it’s a huge constituency,” he says.
- Although it is never easy to defeat an incumbent president running for re-election, Reed says Obama is “eminently beatable.
- Reed sees the economy and high unemployment as Obama’s greatest vulnerability: “Right now Barack Obama has a higher unemployment rate than any president who has stood for re-election since the Great Depression,” he said. “And there’s never been a president re-elected since the Depression where the unemployment is over 7.2 percent. Today it’s 9.1. He’d have to create a half million jobs every months between now and Election Day for him to fall below 7.2 percent, and I don’t know that that’s likely to happen.”
- Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich’s characterization of Ryan’s proposals as “right-wing social engineering,” Reed said, “was not helpful.” Reed added Gingrich simply meant to say he preferred a system of incentives to encourage those under 55 to switch to a voucher system, rather than mandating that they do so. “That’s a fairly minor difference, compared to the Grand Canyon distance, the chasm, that separates Newt and Paul Ryan from Obama’s plan. Obama’s plan is a bureaucratic, government-run solution that will bankrupt the U.S. government,” he added.
- He credited former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney with being a “trail blazer” in 2008 as the first Mormon candidate by either party to be a viable candidate for the presidential nomination. He predicts the Mormon faith will be much less of an issue for Romney and former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman in the upcoming cycle.
- Reed believes the GOP has a strong field for 2012. “Whoever wins this nomination, they will be in a very competitive race with Barack Obama unless the economy really turns around strongly, which I don’t anticipate,” he said.
- He said there were other prospects he’d hoped would toss their hat into the ring, including Mitch Daniels, Sarah Palin, Donald Trump, Haley Barbour, and Mike Pence. “I think the field that we have is likely to be the final field,” he concluded.
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