Politics

Scott Brown takes on Paul Ryan, opposes GOP Medicare reform plan

Massachusetts Republican Sen. Scott Brown, who for weeks has withheld his official position on House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan’s plan to overhaul Medicare, announced Monday he will vote to defeat the bill when it arrives on the Senate floor.

“While I applaud Ryan for getting the conversation started, I cannot support his specific plan — and therefore will vote ‘no’ on his budget,” Scott wrote in an op-ed in by Politico Monday.

Ryan unveiled a budget plan in April that would cut $4.4 trillion from the federal budget over 10 years, eliminate the health care law passed last year, slash domestic spending and completely overhaul some of the nation’s entitlement programs like Medicare and Medicaid. Under Ryan’s Medicare plan, the federal government would issue vouchers to seniors to purchase their own health care insurance in a private market. It would only apply to those ages 55 and younger.

Brown conceded that the debate over Medicare is “long overdue” and that the “increasing cost must be addressed,” but Ryan’s plan — which all but four House Republicans voted for last month — was not something he could support, pointing to cuts already made in the new health care law and the chance that inflation could increase the cost burden on seniors under Ryan’s plan.

Brown outlined his own vision to change the system from within, including reforms to tort law that would restrict lawsuits against doctors, increase oversight for cases of fraud and change the reimbursement mechanism to medical providers.

“I do not think it requires us to change Medicare as we know it,” Brown wrote. “We can work inside of Medicare to make it more solvent.”

Brown’s comments arrive after it appeared last week that he planned to support it. On May 13, he said he would “vote for” the Republican budget, but clarified later that he had meant to say that he would vote “on” it, and had not yet made his decision.

Maine Republican Sen. Susan Collins was the first GOP senator to announce opposition in April and other Republicans have shown reluctance to throw their full weight of support behind the plan.

Democrats have resoundingly rejected the Republican proposal, warning that the plan would “end Medicare as we know it” and increase the cost of health care for seniors.

Despite Brown’s announcement, a spokesman from the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee knocked the senator who took the seat held by the late Democratic Sen. Ted Kennedy for nearly 50 years, saying Brown was “trying to have it both ways” by not offering more information about his views on Medicare.

“He talks like a D.C. politician who is trying to have it both ways and hide his own extreme positions,” said DSCC spokesman Matt Canter. “Brown’s op-ed today was certainly a tantalizing read, but there is still so much that Brown is refusing to tell his constituents about where he stands when it comes to Medicare and protecting seniors.”

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Democrat of Nevada, is expected to put the Ryan plan to a vote on the floor this week, where it is expected not to pass.

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