Republican Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin showcased his policy credentials Tuesday at a speech at the Hoover Institution, optimistically making the case that Obama’s health care reform law can be repealed and replaced.
The conservative Republican began his speech on a light note, saying, “This is a subject I find hard to be funny about, especially since the Democrats took all the jokes about it and wrote them into law.”
But then he got down to business, outlining three reasons why repealing and replacing the president’s health care law is feasible. He also spoke briefly about former Massachusetts governor and presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s own health care reform, which has been a repeated source of contention in his campaign.
“I think he is, in theory, open to these ideas,” said Ryan. “I’m not a fan of individual mandates; I don’t think they work.”
“I don’t know how I would counsel him to defend Romneycare,” Ryan added. “I think he’s already done as best a job he can.”
At one point, he put the subject of health care on a more personal note, telling his audience it is serious issue for him because his family has a history of health problems: Males in his family tend to not make it to their 60th birthday.
Ryan, however, spent most of his speech arguing why there is hope that Obamacare will ultimately be repealed. He based his argument on three reasons: The times require action, Republicans have the right ideas and, despite the current era of partisanship, the politics are possible.
“If we engage the nation in a serious debate and put forward an alternate agenda, the odds are pretty good,” he said. “But we cannot simply stop at repeal. We also have a responsibility to fix the broken network of government policies that have made a mess of healthcare in America.”
As for it being the right time for lawmakers to get the ball rolling on repeal, Ryan said the stark realities about the country’s long-term deficit and skyrocketing costs of Medicare and Medicaid provide the best opportunity to confront health care spending and push for repeal.
“There is no serious dispute — on either side of the aisle — that health care inflation is the primary driver of our unsustainable deficits,” he said. “So the disagreement isn’t really about the problem. It’s about how best to control costs in government health care programs. And if I could sum up that disagreement in a couple of sentences, I would say this: Our plan is to empower patients; their plan is to empower bureaucrats.”
He also said that at this point, conservative policy-makers already know “what works and what doesn’t work” when it comes to health care. And finally, he added that Democratic partisan scare tactics won’t work if Republicans have the courage to offer Americans a real choice in health care.
“We should not fear false attacks again in 2012,” Ryan cautioned. “Fear and demagoguery are the last refuges of an intellectually bankrupt party, and the moment calls for leaders who are not afraid to be honest with people about how they would solve the problems we face.”
Ryan, who also chairs the House Budget Committee, put forward a number of policy proposal to solve runaway health care costs. For example, he called for the strengthening of Medicare and Medicaid to save them from insolvency, while advocating the need to reform the tax code.
Under a reformed approach,” he said,” the government would make a defined contribution to the health-care security of every American, rather than continue to offer open-ended, well-intentioned, but ultimately empty, promises.”
He summed up his speech by saying, “In health care, we owe the American people a defining choice, and that choice is: Who is in charge, the government or the patient?”