Senators Richard Burr (R., N.C.) and Tom Coburn (R., Okla.) have put out a new Medicare reform plan that just might be the best one yet. I discuss it in detail over at my Forbes blog. It combines the “premium support” and “competitive bidding” aspects of Paul Ryan’s plans, as best exemplified by the Wyden-Ryan proposal, and also incorporates a bunch of reforms from last summer’s Lieberman-Coburn proposal, such as raising the retirement age, means-testing Medicare, and cost-sharing reform. I conclude:
It’s an election year, of course, and President Obama has already stated his intention to campaign against market-based Medicare reform. As my co-blogger Robert Book noted this week, the President’s budget cuts Medicare by $300 billion over the next ten years. But Obama’s cuts are blunt and clumsy: they take the politically easy way out by cutting payments to doctors and hospitals, which will force more and more doctors to drop out of the Medicare program, making it harder and harder for retirees to get the care they need.
So the chances that Burr-Coburn make it into law this year are about zero. But the plan is still extremely valuable. It gives Presidential and Congressional candidates something to campaign on in the fall, allowing the broader public to think through the arguments for and against Medicare reform. Change may come to Washington in November, and if it does, thanks to Richard Burr and Tom Coburn, real entitlement reform may move from a dream to reality.