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House Democrat Political Chief Supported Medicare Premium Support Before He Was Against It

March 25, 2012

Not long ago, Rep. Steve Israel (D-NY), now Chair of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, cast the deciding vote that would have enacted a new premium support program in Medicare.  That premium support model, contained in the House-passed Medicare prescription drug benefit legislation, is similar to the one contained in the House Republican Budget, which Israel is now lambasting.  
In previously supporting premium support, Rep. Israel noted that he wanted to ensure the 85,000 seniors in his district had access to a choice of Medicare plans, calling the lack of choice and competition in Medicare a “health care crisis.”
What’s the main difference between the premium support model Rep. Israel supported and the one he opposes today?  Answer:  The premium support plan that Rep. Israel supported would have impacted current seniors, whereas the premium support model in the House Republican Budget would not impact current seniors or anyone over the age of 54.
Despite the rhetoric from Democrats like Rep. Israel, premium support has a long history of Democrat support, including:  Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR), former Senator John Breaux (D-LA), former Senator and current Senate candidate Bob Kerrey (D-NE), President Clinton’s Budget Director Alice Rivlin, and former Director of the Congressional Budget Office Robert Reischauer.
Congress should be working on a bipartisan basis to protect and strengthen Medicare while improving seniors’ choices.   Without action, Medicare will go bankrupt in a few short years.