The Virtues of Premium Support
Good enough for Congress? Good enough for us.

Senator Ron Wyden (D., Ore.) and Representative Paul Ryan (R., Wisc.)


Deroy Murdock

“Premium support” is a Dullsville name for a dazzling idea. It should be rechristened Insurance Assistance (unexciting, but fathomable), Kemp Grants (echoing the collegiate Pell Grants, but honoring Ryan’s late mentor, longtime New York GOP congressman Jack Kemp), Personal Health Grants (as columnist Quin Hillyer suggests), or MediChoice (as the TrueSpeak Institute’s Jim Guirard advises). This radical concept, as Hillyer recalled last week, has been endorsed and promoted by such right-wing militants as former Democratic senators John Breaux of Louisiana and Bob Kerrey of Nebraska and President Clinton’s chief economic adviser, Laura D’Andrea Tyson.  

These payments would offer “more help for those who need it” and “less help for those who don’t,” Wyden and Ryan continue. “Wealthier seniors who need help least would see their assistance reduced.” Democrats who hate rich people should love how Wyden-Ryan pinpoints benefits for poorer Americans.

Seniors would use these payments to purchase medical plans that make them happy. “By giving seniors the power to choose among competing plans,” Wyden and Ryan wrote in last December 15’s Wall Street Journal, “our plan would add a level of cost control, customization, and quality to the health security of older Americans that today’s Medicare is not in a position to achieve.” 

Wyden-Ryan mirrors the way federal legislators buy health insurance.

As’s Brooks Jackson notes, “House and Senate members are allowed to purchase private health insurance offered through the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program, which covers more than 8 million other federal employees, retirees and their families.”

“The FEHBP offers about 300 different private health care plans,” Jackson writes, “including five government-wide, fee-for-service plans and many regional health maintenance organization (HMO) plans. . . . ” While this huge number includes all policies, nationwide, “an enrollee’s choice is between 5 and 15 options,” the Congressional Research Service reports.

As, elaborates, “All plans cover hospital, surgical and physician services, and mental health services, prescription drugs and ‘catastrophic’ coverage against very large medical expenses . . . There are no exclusions for preexisting conditions.” Participants may change plans during annual “open season” periods. Also, the government pays 72 percent of the average worker’s premium, with a maximum of 75 percent.

Democrats cannot explain why Medicare recipients need to become congressmen to enjoy such choices in health coverage.

If Ryancare, in essence, is good enough for senior citizens like Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid, it’s good enough for any senior who wants it after 2022.

New York commentator Deroy Murdock is a nationally syndicated columnist with the Scripps Howard News Service and a media fellow with the Hoover Institution on War, Revolution and Peace at Stanford University.


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