One of the central questions in the argument over Paul Ryan’s Medicare plan is whether it’s a “voucher” plan. Dems have widely insisted that it is as part of their argument that the GOP plan “ends Medicare.” Republicans have angrily rejected this claim.
Independent fact checkers, like the Post’s Glenn Kessler, have argued that it’s not accurate to say that Ryan’s plan would provide a “voucher” for seniors to buy health insurance. But Dems haven’t budged — they’re sticking by the assertion.
In this context, it’s interesting to see that Tea Party Senator Ron Johnson is also describing Ryancare as a “voucher” plan. Johnson made the claim in an interview with the editorial board of the Appleton Post-Crescent of Wisconsin. Asked what he likes about Ryan’s plan, he specifically cited its use of “vouchers” as evidence of its reliance on “free-market” principles:
What I like about the Paul Ryan plan is it’s trying bring a little bit of free-market principles back into Medicare.
If you need subsidized care, we’ll give you vouchers. You figure out how you want to spend. You select what insurance carrier you want to use. It’s a start.
Now, it’s true, as the fact-checkers note, that Ryancare doesn’t actually supply vouchers in the literal sense. As Kessler notes, the government doesn’t literally hand people a check to go out and purchase private insurance. When Republicans accuse Dems of using the word “voucher” to scare people, they are right to assert that there are no actual vouchers.
The Congressional Budget Office analysis of Ryancare says that the plan does entitle people to a “a premium support payment to help them purchase private health insurance.” It's true that this payment isn’t given directly to seniors themselves and is made to insurance providers by the government.
But it is still a lump sum with which seniors acquire private insurance, rather than enrolling in Medicare as it’s currently administered. And as Johnson’s quote above shows, even adamant Tea Party types see this as a voucher plan in spirit — and they mean that as a positive, as an affirmation of Ryancare’s reliance on free market principles, rather than on the government.