Congress

Kansas delegation want Medicare changes, but they won’t say ‘privatize’

House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., speaks as House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif. (left), listens during a news conference after a House Republican Conference meeting at the U.S. Capitol in Washington on Nov. 15, 2016.
House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., speaks as House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif. (left), listens during a news conference after a House Republican Conference meeting at the U.S. Capitol in Washington on Nov. 15, 2016. Bloomberg

Kansas members of Congress agree that Medicare should probably be revamped. But they are reluctant to refer to a potential overhaul as “privatization” just yet.

House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., has indicated plans for privatization when discussing Medicare changes. According to Ryan’s model, which he has dubbed a “premium support” program, Medicare would change from a single-payer system to one in which recipients use government benefits to buy insurance from private providers.

But “privatization” isn’t proving to be a buzzword.

“Medicare is an important program for many Kansans,” said Michael Byerly, a spokesman for Republican Rep. Lynn Jenkins, of Kansas’ 2nd Congressional District. “Congresswoman Jenkins is working to ensure this vital program is protected and strengthened for our seniors.”

Republican Rep. Kevin Yoder of Kansas’ 3rd Congressional District didn’t use the word, either.

“Congressman Yoder supports efforts to reform Medicare to ensure it remains viable and solvent for generations to come,” said spokesman C.J. Grover.

Meanwhile, Republican Rep.-elect Roger Marshall, the obstetrician-gynecologist who will succeed Rep. Tim Huelskamp in Kansas’ 1st Congressional District, said he’d discussed changes to Medicare last week with Rep. Tom Price, R-Ga., whom Donald Trump says he’ll nominate to become health and human services secretary.

In a statement, Marshall said he was impressed with Price’s approach toward senior citizen health care.

“As I understand it, they aren’t pushing for privatization. Their model would give seniors more freedom to choose the best plan for them and would force providers to compete against each other on price and quality,” Marshall said.

“The plan would still be federally regulated with federally mandated benefits and the option to continue in government-run Medicare if beneficiaries so choose,” Marshall continued.

The office of Michael Pompeo, Republican representative for Kansas’ 4th Congressional District and President-elect Donald Trump’s pick for CIA director, declined to comment.

Ryan has discussed his intent to package Medicare changes with a repeal of the Affordable Care Act, commonly known as Obamacare. In an interview with Fox News a day after the election, Ryan attributed the program’s alleged insolvency to the health care law.

“Well, you have to remember, when Obamacare became Obamacare, Obamacare rewrote Medicare, rewrote Medicaid. If you are going to repeal and replace Obamacare, you have to address those issues as well,” Ryan said.

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story gave the wrong first name for Health and Human Services Secretary nominee Tom Price of Georgia.

Lindsay Wise contributed to this report.

Sophie Ota: 202-383-6170

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