Politico will host an awards dinner tonight, honoring “Policymakers of the Year” in a variety of categories and fields. That wouldn’t be especially interesting, were it not for the news organization’s choice for “Health Care Policymaker of the Year.”
When House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan released his budget plan in April, the Wisconsin Republican instantly changed the conversation about health care in America. It wasn’t always a polite conversation. And it gave way to new Democratic charges that Republicans want to “end Medicare.”
But Ryan got everyone talking about ways to get health care entitlements under control — and he gave Republicans the most detailed illustration to date of how market forces could be used to do that. He has influenced how Republican presidential candidates such as Mitt Romney talk about health care, as they use variations of his Medicare plan in their campaigns. And if Republicans gain power after the 2012 elections, his blueprint is sure to be the starting point for their future health care policies.
Giving an award to someone for getting “everyone talking” seems like an unusual standard for tributes. Indeed, when a policymaker gets “everyone talking” about how ridiculous his proposal is, this generally isn’t rewarded with some kind of year-end honor.
It’s been several months since the political world debated Paul Ryan’s approach to health care in detail, so perhaps Politico has forgotten some of the more important realizations from the debate. Let’s remind the publication of the relevant details.
First, Ryan’s health care agenda repealed the entirety of the Affordable Care Act — in the process, taking coverage away from millions of Americans — and replaced it with nothing. What’s more, by scrapping the ACA altogether, Ryan would add billions to the deficit, and his plan simply asserted the opposite without evidence.
Second, Ryan’s plan claimed to control health care costs. A closer look reveals that Ryan’s claims were wrong. Indeed, Ryan pushed to shift Medicare cost burdens from the government to families, and apply the savings to more tax cuts.
Third, accusations that the Ryan plan would “end Medicare” were accurate. The right-wing lawmaker intended to scrap the existing program, replacing it with a privatized voucher scheme — and the vouchers wouldn’t cover escalating costs.
Fourth, though it often went overlooked, Ryan’s proposed changes to Medicaid were a tragic mess.
And perhaps best of all, independent scrutiny found that the numbers in Paul Ryan’s plan simply didn’t add up.
To know all of this, and give this guy an award “Health Care Policymaker of the Year” anyway, is madness.