It wasn't a surprise when Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.), issued a statement Tuesday reproving House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) for comments Boehner made in support of Medicare means-testing to the Economic Club of New York. What is surprising is that more Democrats—especially those in leadership positions—haven't released similar or harsher criticisms of the Ohio congressman's remarks.
Why aren't Democrats pouncing?
Those comments came Monday night after Boehner's speech, when he answered a healthcare-related question from American businessman Peter Peterson, the former chairman of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York who served for one year as U.S. Commerce secretary during the Nixon Administration. In 2008, Peterson founded the Peter G. Peterson Foundation, which seeks to promote awareness on fiscal sustainability issues.
Peterson's long-winded question (in the video, Boehner looked as if he were fading) asked the speaker about healthcare costs, which he said are “racing toward 20% of GDP, twice that of other developed nations.” Peterson cited the conclusion from the Congressional Budget Office that seniors will have to pay more for Medicare under the plan proposed by Paul Ryan (R-Wis.). He then asked Boehner how it can be assumed that the private market—which he said until now has not been effective in containing lower costs—will bring down private-sectors cost in the future.
“The idea that the government is going to drive innovation in our healthcare delivery, I believe, is an oxymoron,” Boehner replied. “And the fact is the private sector can bring real change to our healthcare system in a way that protects the best healthcare delivery system in the world,” he said, He added that he doesn't think taxpayers should be responsible for paying Peterson's Medicare premium.
“And under Paul Ryan's plan, what it says is let's allow the American people to decide which healthcare plan fits their needs,” Boehner continued. “And if you're middle-income, lower-income, we are going to pay, just like we do today, for the cost of those premiums. But for people of means, there's no reason why we should subsidize Pete Peterson's premium. I'm sorry—he ought to pay the full cost of his premium to be in Medicare,” he added. “Now I know this to some people this is, ‘Oh my goodness—we couldn't do this. We have to treat all Americans alike.' Let me tell you: We're broke. And for those who have substantial means, you can pay your own premium,” Boehner said, receiving laughter and applause.
Not everyone found Boehner's remarks amusing—including Waxman the next day.
“Medicare is a social insurance program where you get back for paying in, whether you are middle-class, poor or rich,” Waxman said in his statement. “If Mr. Boehner wants to have the wealthy contribute more to deficit reduction, he should look to the tax code.”
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