Health Secretary Tom Price says seniors shouldn’t be worried about the future of their Medicare benefits.
In an interview on CBS’ Face the Nation, the former Georgia congressman, who has long been an advocate for market-based approaches to health care, dodged a question about potential cuts to Medicare, saying only that the Trump administration is committed to keeping the program as a “guarantee” to U.S. seniors.
“The challenge that we have, as you well know and your viewers know, is that Medicare is, as some folks have said, going insolvent or going broke,” he added. “So we believe strongly in the guarantee of Medicare and make certain that it’s a viable, financially secure program going forward so that seniors now and in the future know that it will be there for them.”
There are different ways to interpret that comment. One is that Price is rebuking proposals floated by Speaker Paul Ryan and other conservatives to transform Medicare from an open-ended entitlement to a voucher-style system.
That narrative is backed up by the budget that the Trump administration has proposed, which includes no changes to Social Security and Medicare. That budget is in line with Trump’s campaign promise to oppose any cuts to the two major entitlement programs.
But it is likely premature to say Price’s comments or even the Trump budget have shut the door for good on entitlement cuts. Indeed, many who support turning Medicare into a “premium support” program, including Ryan and Price during his time in Congress, frame their proposals as a way to save Medicare and preserve the guarantee to seniors.
“By reforming these programs in the future, we can preserve them for the present,” said Ryan when he released a budget that proposed major changes to Medicare in 2011.