WASHINGTON – House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) told reporters Friday that Congressional Democrats will vigorously oppose any attempt by House Republican leaders to privatize Medicare.
“Democrats will fight them will all of our strength just as we did in 2005 and 2006 when President Bush tried to privatize Social Security,” Pelosi said.
Pelosi’s opposition to potential policy changes could gain traction in January when President-elect Donald Trump takes the oath of office comes just two days after the San Francisco Democrat easily fought off a long-shot leadership challenge from Rep. Tim Ryan (D-Ohio).
Many political pundits argued that Ryan, who represents manufacturing-heavy areas in Ohio such as Youngstown and Akron, would be better suited to attract rust-belt voters whom polls suggested voted overwhelmingly for Trump.
Pelosi consistently rejected that premise and on Wednesday was re-elected Congress’ top Democrat by a vote of 134-63.
During Friday’s news conference, Pelosi said the president-elect’s decision to appoint House Budget Committee Chairman Tom Price (R-Ga.) Secretary of Health and Human Services is the first step toward privatizing Medicare.
“Congressional Republicans are clearly more interested in dismantling Medicare than building job-creating infrastructure,” Pelosi said. “With Chairman Price headed to the HHS (Department of Health and Human Services) [House] Speaker [Paul] Ryan was closer to realizing his dream and America’s nightmare of shattering the Medicare guarantee and protecting generations of American seniors.”
Ryan told reporters Thursday that Medicare is set to go bankrupt in 2028 and can only be saved if drastic reforms are implemented.
The Speaker suggested that insolvency could possibly be averted if Medicare recipients were allowed to opt out of the traditional program and purchase health insurance from the private sector with the assistance of vouchers.
In 2011, when Ryan was chairman of the House Budget Committee, he helped formulate a proposal that if implemented would have essentially privatized Medicare.
The Congressional Budget Office released a report around that time stipulating that Ryan’s plan could have nearly doubled health care costs for seniors.
But Ryan said Thursday that he does not currently have any specific reforms on the agenda and has not discussed Medicare reform with Trump.
The Speaker told reporters that rising Obamacare costs have contributed toward the gradual depletion of the Medicare trust fund but various studies have refuted that claim.
Both Ryan and Trump have advocated repealing the Affordable Care Act and replacing the law with a more affordable substitute.
Pelosi told reporters that Democrats are willing to work with Republicans to improve the Affordable Care Act but will not support repealing the law.
“We’re not going to be party to the dismantling of the Affordable Care Act,” Pelosi said in response to a question.