Newt Gingrich, Paul Ryan skirmish over Medicare reform

Paul Conner Executive Editor
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Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich raised some Republican eyebrows Sunday by condemning Rep. Paul Ryan‘s plan to reform Medicare on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”

Gingrich, who officially declared his candidacy for president last Wednesday, distanced himself from the House budget chairman’s plan to move to a system where seniors receive vouchers to buy private insurance. The Ryan plan has been endorsed by the majority of House Republicans.

“I think that is too big a jump,” Gingrich said of the Ryan plan. “I think what you want to have is a system where people voluntarily migrate to better outcomes, better solutions, better options.”

“I’m against Obamacare, which is imposing radical change, and I would be against a conservative imposing radical change,” he continued.

Ryan’s spokesman Conor Sweeney took issue with Gingrich calling the plan “radical” and responded Sunday afternoon, saying the Ryan budget “remains the only serious proposal put forward on either end on Pennsylvania Avenue that saves Medicare.”

“The solutions offered by Chairman Ryan and advanced by House Republicans make no changes to Medicare for those in and near retirement, while offering a strengthened, personalized program that future generations can count on when they retire,” Sweeney told National Review Online’s Robert Costa.

“Far from claims of radicalism, the gradual, common-sense Medicare reforms ensure that no senior will be forced to reorganize their lives because of government’s mistakes. The most ‘radical’ course of action on Medicare is continue to cling to the unsustainable status quo,” Sweeney said.

Gingrich’s lean toward the middle included a call for a “national conversation” about how to improve Medicare.

“I don’t think right-wing social engineering is any more desirable than left-wing social engineering,” Gingrich said. “I don’t think imposing radical change from the right or the left is a very good way for a free society to operate.”

A federal report released Friday indicated that Medicare is expected to become insolvent in 2024, five years before expected.