The roundtable panel on ABC's This Week (5/29/11) spent some time talking about the politics of Medicare, specifically the idea that the recent Democratic victory in a special Congressional election in New York could mean that Paul Ryan's Medicare plan might be a tremendous liability for the GOP.
One of the most prevalent talking points from the Republican side is to complain that while Ryan's plan might have its flaws, at least they have something–unlike the Democrats. It was a point that ABC reporter Jonathan Karl passed along as fact:
[Bill Clinton] said that I hope Democrats don't use this as an excuse to do nothing. And that is exactly what Democrats are doing right now. There is no Democratic plan on reforming Medicare; we're waiting for the president to come out with a plan. The president's old budget lost 97-0 in a vote in the Senate, so, you know, I mean–Republicans are scared. They are definitely scared. But there is nothing coming from the other side.
Most people remember a big national debate over healthcare happened not too long ago. The law that passed–the Affordable Care Act, or "Obamacare" to its GOP critics–included several provisions intended to control the cost of healthcare, including Medicare. This was part of the reason Republicans were screaming about "death panels."
The parts of the Affordable Care Act that pertain to shrinking the cost of Medicare have been pretty well-explained for a while now. A recent piece from the Kaiser Health News explains how the Independent Payment Advisory Board created by the law would work:
Q: What will IPAB do?
A: Beginning with fiscal 2015, if Medicare is projected to grow too quickly, the IPAB will make binding recommendations to reduce spending. Those recommendations will be sent to Capitol Hill at the beginning of each year, and if Congress doesnÃƒÆ’Â¢ÃƒÂ¢”Å¡Â¬ÃƒÂ¢”Å¾Â¢t like them, it must pass alternative cuts–of the same size–by August. A supermajority of the Senate can also vote to amend the IPAB recommendations. If Congress fails to act, the secretary of Health and Human Services is required to implement the cuts by default.
This (and more) was explained in a Washington Post column by Ezra Klein in April. Igor Volsky at Think Progress wrote a post last year showing how Medicare cost containment will work. There's no shortage of information explaining how this will work now that it is law. One could argue that none of it will work, of course, but that's not the same as saying there is no plan but the Paul Ryan plan. That's what Republicans want people to believe–and reporters like Jonathan Karl are doing their best to help.