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Gingrich: Let's Try to Reform Medicare This Year

2:25 PM, May 17, 2011 • By JOHN MCCORMACK
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On a conference call with bloggers and reporters from conservative media outlets today, Newt Gingrich continued to do damage control in the wake of his comments on Meet the Press, in which he used the terms "radical change" and "right-wing social engineering" when discussing the House Republicans' plan to reform Medicare.

Gingrich Newt

Gingrich said during his opening remarks today: "I was asked a very narrowly focused question, which was, 'Given a very large reform, if the country was opposed to it, should we push it through anyway?' I said, 'No.' I used language that was too strong. Although the underlying principle, I think, is right."

While he continued to warn against imposing "radical change," Gingrich called for an arguably bolder move on Medicare. “I would offer on a voluntary basis, a supplement plan, a voucher—I wouldn’t call it a voucher—but some kind of support plan this year," Gingrich said. Paul Ryan's plan wouldn't begin to take effect for 10 years. 

While House Republicans have indicated they won't move a Medicare bill through committee because it wouldn't pass in the Senate, Gingrich said the “challenge to all of us is to go write that bill… make sure that the country understands it and accepts it, so we are in fact the opposite of Obama." 

“Part of what I’m worried about is going through a radical change that has not yet been tested," Gingrich said. "But you could really start this year. And you could start to reduce some of the pressure on Medicare and on the budget this year. And you then put Obama in the position of saying, 'No, I’m not going to let any senior citizen choose.'”

"There’s actually an advantage to starting with a voluntary plan," he continued, "so you get practical operational experience with the first couple hundred thousand people, the first couple million people. And then you look comparatively.” 

Gingrich confirmed that he's "absolutely" in favor of moving to a premium support system, such as the one proposed by Paul Ryan, but seniors should be able to buy into the traditional Medicare fee-for service system rather than being required to purchase a private plan regulated by Medicare. Ryan has called this option a "fine idea worth considering."

Despite his disagreements over precisely how to write Medicare reform legislation, Gingrich says he would have voted for Ryan's budget, "which I applaud, I support as a general document," he said.

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