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Ryan defends budget plan with dramatic Medicare overhaul

House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) on Tuesday defended his fiscal 2013 budget proposal that includes sweeping changes to the nation's tax code and entitlement programs, saying inaction poses a greater threat for the country.

“If we simply operate based on political fear, nothing's ever going to get done. If we allow entitlement politics—fear that your adversaries will turn your reforms into a political weapon to use against you—and we cow to that, then America's going to have a debt crisis,” Ryan told reporters in the Capitol. He made the remarks shortly after his committee released the House GOP's financial blueprint for next year.

“I've got news: Medicare under the president's law is going bankrupt. Medicare under the president's law is next year turning Medicare over to a board of 15 unelected, unaccountable bureaucrats whose job is to circumvent Congress and put price controls on Medicare which will lead to denied care for current seniors,” Ryan continued, barely pausing for air.

Overall, Ryan's budget allocates about $503 billion in total Medicare outlays and about $307 billion for Medicaid and other health spending in 2013. For the 10-year period from 2013 to 2022, the budget calls for about $6.4 trillion for Medicare and $3.4 trillion for Medicaid and other health spending. According to the Medicare Payment Advisory Commission's report to Congress last week, the federal government's spending on Medicare and Medicaid combined was about $793 billion in 2010 and accounted for about 23% of total federal spending that year. That figure is expected to grow to about $1.61 trillion by 2021.

Ryan's plan also recommends changes that would result in across-the-board payments cuts to government programs in 2013.

“Congress is now operating in a post-sequester world—one in which discretionary spending for FY 2013 is capped at $949 billion, and defense spending will be cut by $55 billion, or 10%, in January 2013 unless Congress acts to replace this sequester by reprioritizing the savings,” the budget noted.

Ryan's takes steps to do this by instructing six congressional committees—Agriculture, Energy and Commerce, Financial Services, Judiciary, Oversight and Government Reform, and Ways and Means—to draft legislation that achieves the savings called for under the Budget Control Act.

Meanwhile, the Wisconsin Republican confirmed that his budget's mention of achieving savings through medical liability reform is a reference to the medical malpractice bill House Republicans will consider later this week. That legislation also includes a measure to repeal IPAB.

Follow Jessica Zigmond on Twitter @MHJZigmond.

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