A Republican Congressman Who Worries About Medicare Cuts

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
April 19 2011 1:08 PM

A Republican Congressman Who Worries About Medicare Cuts

Last week I asked Rep. David McKinley, R-WV, why he cast one of only four Republican votes against Paul Ryan's budget. I've printed his entire answer below, but here's the key bit:

My home state of West Virginia has the highest percentage of Medicare beneficiaries in the country, and I cannot support a plan that the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) has determined would nearly double out-of-pocket healthcare costs for future retirees. Unfortunately, Medicare is on a path to bankruptcy unless action is taken. However, I am not convinced that such a dramatic overhaul of benefits for future retirees is necessary to save the program.

David Weigel David Weigel

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. 

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Only three other Republicans voted against the budget, and two of them -- Ron Paul and Walter Jones -- did so in part because of the budget's funding of our ongoing wars in Asia. McKinley is the first Republican, I think, to go on record opposing Ryan on the grounds that his plan increases healthcare costs.

President Obama’s budget calls for $8.7 trillion in more deficit spending, $1.6 trillion in new tax increases and adds $13 trillion to the debt. We cannot continue this unsustainable status quo of record deficits and job-killing debt. Our small businesses and middle class deserve better. The president’s recent speech didn't change a thing. It just called for higher taxes on small businesses that would devastate the economy and was delivered in an ultra-partisan tone that demonstrates he's now fully engaged in a re-election campaign rather than participating in an adult conversation on how best to reduce the deficit.

Congressman Paul Ryan’s proposal is a vast improvement over the president’s, and I thank him for putting forth a serious plan that puts us on a path toward balancing the budget and paying off our debt. Government spending is simply out of control. I am proud to have voted over 20 times to reduce spending in my first one hundred days in office, including the enactment of the largest spending decrease in America’s history this week. But we have far to go before the job is done.

My home state of West Virginia has the highest percentage of Medicare beneficiaries in the country, and I cannot support a plan that the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) has determined would nearly double out-of-pocket healthcare costs for future retirees. Unfortunately, Medicare is on a path to bankruptcy unless action is taken. However, I am not convinced that such a dramatic overhaul of benefits for future retirees is necessary to save the program. Incremental changes may very well be a better solution when coupled with a robust effort to curtail fraud and abuse. The Government Accountability Office (GAO) recently found that in 2010 alone, Medicare lost $48 billion to fraud and other improper payments. We could save hundreds of billions of dollars over the next decade if we implemented stringent accountability measures to correct these massive mistakes.

Further, one of the chief reasons I opposed ObamaCare was because it cut $500 billion from Medicare to pay for government-run healthcare, and this budget does not repeal President Obama’s cuts. The entire law should be repealed as we work toward real healthcare reform that brings down costs through a variety of free-market reforms.    

My votes to cut $100 billion in spending this year alone serve as a demonstration of my commitment to fiscal responsibility. But whether it’s the president’s budget, the budget passed today by the House or any other proposal that has been offered thus far, I do not believe the right solution for the 1st Congressional District of West Virginia has been found yet. I will continue to work with my colleagues both Republican and Democrat to develop the best way to balance the budget, protect Medicare and serve my constituents’ interests as we proceed with this debate in the months ahead.

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter.